Media Release
Global Sydney winner Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE unlocked city’s curiosity to make MCA one of the world’s most visited museums
16 September, 2021

Media contact

Matt Levinson

When Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE arrived in Sydney 22 years ago, she found a great curiosity about art.

“People weren’t dismissive and nor were they cynical in the way that the British could be. I like to think that what I’ve done is to reengage that audience with art, that people are no longer frightened and they don’t think the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is not for them.”

“Art is for everyone, regardless of background, regardless of ability, regardless of postcode.”

The Committee for Sydney’s inaugural Global Sydney Award, supported by Investment NSW, and given to Elizabeth Ann Macgregor today, celebrates those who put Sydney front and centre on the world stage.

Under Macgregor’s leadership, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia has grown from less than 100,000 visitors a year to more than a million in 2019, making the MCA the most visited contemporary art museum in the world.

One of the behind-the-scenes actions Macgregor has taken is bringing school children from diverse backgrounds from Western Sydney to visit the museum, often their first ever visit to the city and for many it’s a life changing experience.

Major partnerships brokered by Macgregor secured the MCA’s financial sustainability, as well as a standout partnership with Tate in London – the International Joint Acquisition Program. This partnership, made possible through a corporate gift from the Qantas Foundation in 2015, moved Indigenous art out of the ethnography section and into the contemporary art section, gaining international coverage and acclaim for some of Australia’s finest artists.

“When I came to Sydney, I was excited by the range and diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander work, and I wanted to make sure it was shown both within the MCA as contemporary art, and also internationally.”

“John Mawurndjul’s bark painting, Buluwana, Female Ancestor (detail),1989, is currently showing as part of A Year in Art: Australia 1992 at Tate Modern in London. This is the first bark painting to enter a major international museum of modern art, and along with the other works in the program, puts Australian art into an international context.”

“I am deeply honoured to have been given this award by my peers, to actually recognise the role of the MCA as a business, as a major force in this city, as something that will help this city continue to thrive and be seen as a true global player, that’s what really matters to me.”

Amy Brown, CEO of Investment NSW, said: “Sydney is a place filled with bold spirits and provocative ideas that change not just Sydney, but the world. Over two decades, Elizabeth Ann MacGregor’s vision has provoked and emboldened all of us. By making art accessible and engaging she has changed our city and lifted our gazes.”

“Investment NSW is proud to be supporting the inaugural Global Sydney Award, an award which recognises the work and passion of the people who are putting Sydney front and centre on the world stage – congratulations Elizabeth-Ann MacGregor.”

Gabriel Metcalf, CEO of the Committee for Sydney, said: “The city is markedly different and not just in terms of what Liz Ann has done with the MCA. Her work connecting diverse audiences with contemporary art, including school children from Western Sydney and audiences with access needs, has been extraordinarily important.

“You can’t have a global city without a rich cultural community. All up a pretty remarkable body of work that truly expresses the aspirations of this award.”

Designed to celebrate people whose efforts make Sydney the greatest city in the world, the Sydney Awards are broken up into six categories: Global Sydney Culture and Business, Western Sydney Champion, City Visionary, Emerging Leader, and Unsung Hero.

The eminent judging panel for the inaugural awards include:
• Ann Sherry AO – Chair Unicef Australia and Enero Australia
• Wesley Enoch – former Director of the Sydney Festival
• Sara Mansour – Founder Bankstown Poetry Slam, Lawyer Allens
• Cameron Adams – Founder and Chief Product Officer Canva
• Brian Tyson – Managing Partner Newgate Communications, Director Committee for Sydney
• Mike Baird – CEO HammondCare and former NSW Premier.

The Sydney Awards are supported by major partner SEC Newgate Australia, and award sponsors Investment NSW, Mirvac Design, DXC Technology and Coles.

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