Curator Eva Czernis-Ryl reflects on Barry John Willoughby’s significant contribution to the MAAS Collection.
Barry John Willoughby was a valued patron and friend of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences. Art was a constant companion in his life and he enjoyed visiting galleries and museums and attending concerts. His interest in collecting decorative arts and orchestral scores led to his long involvement with the Museum.
Willoughby was particularly inspired by Australia’s flourishing studio glass scene of the 1970s–90s — he was always on the lookout for new talent and his collection includes rare examples of pioneers of the Crafts Movement, such as Stephen Skillitzi and Sam Herman. According to Sydney glass artist Jan Blum, Willoughby bought the first work she ever sold (leadlight panel The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 1985), thus encouraging the artist to further experiment with glass. He delighted in seeing the Museum’s glass collection grow and sought opportunities to engage his artist friends and curators in discussions about art and collecting.
In his will, Willoughby left the Museum many objects and funds for new acquisitions, which will significantly enrich our permanent design and music holdings. Reflecting his passion for glass, the bequest includes French art deco vases by René Lalique, Australian studio glass pieces and examples of Scandinavian, Italian, French and English modernism. Among the highlights in the latter group are the iconic limited-edition sculpture Erebus by the French-Hungarian Op Art artist Victor Vasarely, Spina vessels from Murano’s Barovier & Toso, and a rare Venetian vase by Alfredo Barbini that Willoughby bought from an Italian glass exhibition at Sydney’s David Jones Gallery.
The bequest also includes a unique ceramic platter painted by notable Australian artist Salvatore Zofrea, and the first edition musical score (oratorio) of Joseph Haydn’s masterpiece The Creation (Die Schöpfung, 1797–98) published in Vienna in 1800. This rare publication includes the list of subscribers particularly from the London music scene in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Creation is a great companion to the George Frideric Handel manuscript in the MAAS collection and other early and first editions by great European composers such as Mozart and Beethoven.
Bequests have played a major part in the development of the Museum’s collection and have provided us with some of our most important and best loved objects. Thank you to all benefactors who have generously pledged to support the future of the Museum via a gift in their will. If you would like further information about making a bequest, please contact email@example.com or (02) 9217 0577