The National Gallery of Australia's founding director, and the man who orchestrated the controversial purchase of Jackson's Pollock's Blue Poles, has died.
James Mollison was 88.
The gallery's current director, Nick Mitzevich, led tributes on Sunday afternoon, saying Mollison's death brought to an end a "very momentous era in Australian art and culture".
"With someone like James, you just think he is just going to be around all the time," Mitzevich said.
"His impact was much wider than just art circles, wider than just galleries. He had an impact on the debate about art and culture in Australia."
Mollison was appointed as the gallery's founding director in 1977, a position he held until 1990.
But it was as the gallery's acting director that he made his most famous, and controversial, decision.
Mollison was armed with one of the largest acquisition budgets of any gallery in the world when he learned Jackson Pollock's abstract expressionist painting Blue Poles was up for sale for $1.3 million in 1973.
"We are only interested in acquiring masterpieces," he once famously said.
The purchase was too expensive for the gallery to approve on its own; it needed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's signature to seal the deal.
Whitlam did, and declared the price tag - the largest paid for an American artwork at the time - be made public.
A media frenzy followed, with the front page of Sydney's Daily Mirror screaming "Barefoot drunks painted our $1m masterpiece". Another tabloid bellowed "DRUNKS DID IT!".
Four decades on, the painting reportedly has an estimated value of $350 million.
Mollison knew the art and the acquisitions stirred emotions. In an interview with The Canberra Times in 1985, he said:
"One thing I really like about art is its ability to move people. So I accept that if a particular work is going to enhance the lives of some people it's going to make others deeply angry."
Mitzevich said the acquisition of Blue Poles typified Mollison's genius, a man with an "extraordinary mind ... always thinking ahead".
He said the controversy surrounding the record-breaking purchase, which lingers to this day, "in many ways haunted" Mollison, and somewhat overshadowed the "many other extraordinary things he did".
"That work [Blue Poles] was emblematic of lots of other things that he did.
"He was the first to do many things.
"I hope that his era won't just be defined by Blue Poles, because it was bigger and richer than that. He added much more to the national dialogue about art and culture."
Mitzevich, the gallery's sixth director, said Mollison helped open the eyes and minds of Australians to the world around them.
"He was very advanced in the way that he looked at art and culture and that was because he had an extraordinary mind.
"That gave him the capacity to be ambitious and to be bold.
"He was a thought leader. He was part of the opening up of Australia and how it really appreciated its art and culture.
"At times, his progressive approach meant that people had to stop and think about what he was doing. He was ahead of everybody."