Ann Lewis passed away yesterday.  I heard the news from friends in Sydney before I saw the story in today’s Sydney Morning Herald and I’m grateful to them for letting me know.

Ann LewisI didn’t know Ann very well.  I met her in Washington, DC, in 2006.  She’d come over for the opening of the exhibition Dreaming Their Way at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.  She had loaned work to the show, including a stupendous Emily Kngwarreye.  We rode down to Charlottesville together the next day to visit the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection.  At the time, I didn’t know anything about her amazing life, her Sydney showplace, Gallery A, from decades gone by, or her service on the board of MOMA, or any of the other accomplishments the Herald talks about.  It was a brief encounter, but a memorable one.

After that, though, I was a welcome guest in her home whenever I traveled to Sydney.  Once it was tea under another imposing painting by Emily, which was about to go off to the major retrospective in Japan.  Another time it was lunch in the dining room under the spectacular John Olson painting that covered the ceiling.  Always it was comfortable, fun, and full of surprises, rich in history.

I last saw her during a respite from chemotherapy, and I really believed she would beat the cancer.

I offer up these few memories because I am always grateful for her generosity, her warmth, her hospitality.  We shared a passion for art and that was enough to build a friendship.  It will feel strange and sad to go back to Sydney thinking that she won’t be there.  Vale.

Update: The Australian published a longer biographical piece on May 19.

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