The Australia Council for the Arts deeply mourns the loss of Nick Waterlow OAM, aged 68, who died this week in Sydney under tragic circumstances. An outstanding writer, curator, historian, theorist and long-time director of the Ivan Dougherty Gallery at the College of Fine Arts, University of NSW, Nick Waterlow was a rare, gentle and greatly admired pillar of the Australian arts community.
“Across generations, Nick was a great mentor of Australian artists and arts administrators,” said Kathy Keele, Chief Executive of the Australia Council. “Only a fortnight ago, Nick was actively engaged with us in evaluating the current visual arts and craft strategy. He was always enthusiastically contributing his knowledge and expertise to the cause of artists and had international respect for his commitment and dedication to the arts.”
Nick was an inspirational Director of the Visual Arts Board at the Australia Council from March 1980 to October 1983. He was instrumental in establishing an Artlaw advisory centre, a pre-cursor to Artslaw, and was a powerful advocate for the moral rights of artists.
In 1991 he went on to direct the Ivan Dougherty Gallery at the University of NSW where he remained until his sudden death. The Visual Arts Board continued to support the work of Nick Waterlow throughout this period, funding nine exhibitions of excellence, notably including 25 years of performance art in Australia.
“With great sadness the international arts community farewells a dear friend, whose integrity and honesty were an inspiration to generations of artists, curators and museum professionals” said Ted Snell, Chair of the Australia Council’s Visual Arts Board.
“While his accomplishments are legion, he wore them lightly; he was always enthused by the ideas and projects of others, always gracious when offering assistance to younger artists, always supporting and promoting Australian art and always prepared to take a stand. He was the quintessential mentor, the consummate curator, the always excitable and provocative conversationalist, a great museum director, a wily arts bureaucrat, a catalyst to every good idea and an inspiration to us all.”
Born in England, Nick Waterlow arrived in Sydney in 1965, and married an Australian woman, Romy, before returning to Britain the next year. He migrated to Australia in 1977, later completing a Master of Art Administration at Monash University in Melbourne.
He went on to be artistic director of the Biennale of Sydney in the years 1979, 1986 and 1988 and chaired the selection committee in 2000. As well as director of the Ivan Dougherty Gallery in Paddington, Nick was a senior lecturer at College of Fine Artsí School of Art History and Art Education. In recent years he was driving a plan for a major new art museum as part of COFAís expanded facilities.
He will be greatly missed. The Australia Council extends our deepest sympathy to his colleagues and many friends, to the other members of his family and to his partner, Juliet Darling.