Farewell to a great man of fashion and philanthropy — 22.07.10

Gus Fisher, philanthropist, man of fashion and friend to the Arts Foundation has passed away.

We have just heard the sad news that Gus Fisher died on Tuesday 20 July. Gus and his wife Irene were the recipients of the Award for Patronage this year. Our heartfelt sympathies are extended to his wife Irene, their son Michael and also to Michael's family.

Gus was a close friend and patron of the Arts Foundation and we are all going to miss him. From Auckland, Gus and Irene were regular attendees at Arts Foundation functions no matter where they were in New Zealand. Photographs from our events are full of their warm smiles.

Gus was a generous patron and we were proud to celebrate his contributions to the Gus Fisher Gallery and other arts projects.  He was also known for his contributions to education and health.

Ros Burdon, Arts Foundation Chairman, said "we are most grateful to Gus and Irene for accepting the Award for Patronage when Gus was so unwell. It was important to honour Gus for his generosity towards the arts, but we knew it would be a challenge for him. However, he rose to the occasion like a star and impressed the socks off of us. It was fantastic to see Gus have such a wonderful time at the Awards surrounded by his family and friends. We also heard that he had a wonderful time at the opening of the exhibition Looking Terrific, the Story of El Jay. Both occasions were a timely celebration of a great life".

Our Executive Director, Simon Bowden, is particularly grateful for the time he spent with Gus leading up to the announcement of the Award for Patronage. Gus and Irene had the task of selecting recipients of a $20,000 donation from the Foundation to artists or projects. Most will know by now that Gus and Irene added $30,000 of their own to the pool for distribution and made five donations of $10,000. What is most interesting is the way Gus conducted the selection process.

With the support of Irene, Gus used his intuition to decide on the recipients.  Simon said of the experience, "He had an instinct at work that filled the room with excitement. Each time Gus talked about an artist I knew that there could be not doubt about the selection. I imagine he was using the same process that he would have used to achieve the very high standards synonymous with his fashion label El Jay. This was one of the best experiences I have had at the Foundation. I felt privileged to be with him when he made the selections and know that others that have worked with him will know what I am talking about".

Managing Director of Forsyth Barr (sponsor of the Award for Patronage), Neil Paviour-Smith said "We all at Forsyth Barr are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Gus Fisher.  We are glad that his extraordinary contribution through a rich and full life was recently acknowledged and celebrated.  We are thankful the Award for Patronage occurred during his lifetime.  Our sympathies are extended to all his family and especially Irene at this time."

The funeral for Gus was held on Thursday, 22 July at 2pm in Auckland.