Vale Philanthropist Max Carter and Art Historian David Hansen

The year starts with the sad loss of a great arts philanthropist and a highly respected educator.
Vale. Max Carter. Aged man sitting with hands on knees and art behind him.

In a formal statement this week, the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) has mourned the passing of one of the State’s most significant arts philanthropists, M.J.M. Carter AO – or simply Max Carter (1926-2024).

To date works of art in the AGSA collection made possible through the generosity of M.J.M. Carter total more than 1400 and have a collective estimated value of $42 million.

AGSA Director, Rhana Devenport ONZM said: ‘It has been a tremendous privilege for AGSA staff to work so closely with Max in many capacities over seven decades – as an art lover, benefactor, an inspired collector, and a great friend.’

She continued: Max’s boundless enthusiasm, passion and energy, love of the arts and the Gallery will forever be remembered. His life’s mission of significant philanthropy, the unparalleled impact of his giving to AGSA, and the way his quiet example motivated and inspired so many others, were immeasurably transformative.’

Michael John Maxwell Carter’s ability to support a range of organisations – most notably the arts – was the result of the success of the family business, Austral Steel. That support came through the Roy Carter Foundation (named after his father).

Carter’s first visit to the gallery was at aged eleven – transfixed, it was a passion that would continue into his adult years. He has been a major patron to AGSA since 1966 through the donation of art for the M.J.M. Carter Collection of nineteenth-century art, and also served on the gallery’s board. He was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1985.

The gallery quoted Carter this week: ‘I believe there is a great joy in seeing a work of art in an art gallery given by oneself, or indeed by others. It has become the most fulfilling area of my life, assisting to enhance the collection for the public to enjoy.’  

His passion for Asian Arts, for Chinese porcelain, Japanese netsuke, Indian and Southeast Asian art is perhaps only rivalled by his astounding gifts to the collection of Tasmanian colonial works, and nineteenth-century Australian artworks – which feature heavily in the Gallery’s Elder Wing of Australian Art. 

In 1993 AGSA celebrated Max’s support and love of Australian art with the exhibition and book, The M.J.M. Carter Collection: A Private View of Australian Art. In 2006, to celebrate his eightieth birthday and his fortieth year of giving, the Gallery staged a tribute exhibition, M.J.M. Carter Collection: The Joy of Giving. To mark his ninetieth year in 2016, Max Carter gave six paintings to the Gallery, including Charles Conder’s masterpiece, Hayfield, Giverny, France, 1894.

His legacy will touch Australians for generations to come.

Read: Vale 2023: saluting those we lost this year

Vale Associate Professor David Hansen

Canberra-based, Associate Professor David Hansen passed away on 13 January after a brief illness. Hansen had held the position at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory (CAHAT), the School of Art & Design at the Australian National University (ANU) from 2014 to 2022.

In that same year he finished up teaching at ANU, Hansen was awarded the prestigious Nina Stanton Copland Foundation Scholarship, which provides an Australian curator or scholar with a place at the Attingham Trust’s Royal Collection Studies program in the UK.

Hansen held a long passion for British Art History and in 2018 had been awarded the 2018 William M.B Berger Prize for British Art History for his 2017 exhibition and catalogue Dempsey’s People for the National Portrait Gallery.

Hansen’s reach in the sector was deep; he had worked as a regional gallery director, a State museum curator and an art auction house researcher and specialist before settling on education and research. He shared over 30 years’ experience, and was widely published.

He was known for his authoritative voice contributing to colonial art, in particular landscapist John Glover and early settler representations of Aboriginal Australians. In 2017 he was a Chief Investigator on a Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project, Facing new worlds: comparative histories of Australasia and North America, to discover new connections or distinctions between ‘Australia’s place in a Pacific world with as yet unexplored links to the Americas.’

He also had a keen eye for mid-20th century modernism, and art of the British Empire. He curated over 80 exhibitions, and was known for his erudite mind and quite passion.

A formal statement by the ANU said: ‘David had a keen sense of humour, a sharp wit, and an absolute disdain for needless bureaucracy and convoluted administrative procedures. He was passionate about history, literature, knowledge, objects, things, art, artists, and contemporary ideas. Always dressed with sartorial flair, he embodied individualism.’ It continued: ‘David was a beloved colleague, lecturer, supervisor, mentor, and friend to many and will be terribly missed.’

He is survived by his partner, the artist Heather B. Swann, and his family.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina