Former Director of National Gallery of Australia Dies at Age 84
By Denise Tsui
On March 31, Betty Churcher, former director of Canberra’s National Gallery of Australia (NGA), passed away from cancer at the age of 84. A seminal figure in the Australian arts sector, Brisbane-born Churcher was affectionately known as “Betty Blockbuster” for the 12 large-scale, international exhibitions she produced during her seven-year tenure at the NGA, which introduced new audiences to the gallery.
In a statement released by the institution, Allan Myers, chairman of the NGA Council praised Churcher as “a passionate promoter of the arts in Australia, who made an enormous contribution to the National Gallery of Australia.” Churcher came to the NGA in 1990 as the second director in its history since opening to the public in 1982. Current NGA director Gerard Vaughan warmly described Betty as “a towering figure in the Australian art community and loved by so many,” adding that “[s]he will always be remembered here with deep affection for her tireless promotion of our visual culture.”
Prior to the NGA, Churcher served as director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth, from 1987 up until her appointment at the NGA. She is also celebrated for her time hosting several television shows in the 1990s. Churcher, a trained artist who gave up painting to raise her four sons with artist husband Roy Churcher (1933–2014), authored numerous books during her lifetime, including Notebooks (2011)—a collection of sketches she had made for her paintings alongside images of the resultant artworks.
Denise Tsui is assistant editor at ArtAsiaPacific.