It’s taken almost 20 years but property baron Michael Buxton has finally found a home for his monumental collection of contemporary art, and the University of Melbourne will be the beneficiary.
The landmark donation of $26 million includes $10 million worth of work from major contemporary artists including Bill Henson, Howard Arkley and Patricia Piccinini and $16 million towards the construction of a gallery dubbed the Michael Buxton Centre of Contemporary Arts (MBCOCA).
“It was always our goal to build a museum but the difficult thing for a family is giving it longevity to see it through for more than a generation. The university can offer that,” said Buxton, who is one of Melbourne’s wealthiest and most prominent property developers.
The collection is a veritable who’s who of Australian contemporary art with names such as Pat Brassington, Emily Floyd, Ricky Swallow and Callum Morton among the list.
“Right from the beginning, we wanted it to be the best. We set about deciding who were the six top artists in Australia and every three years, we would review that group of artists and we’ve done that all the way through, so over 20 years we’ve had 53 artists and in excess of 300 works in this collection,” he said.
The works will remain in Buxton’s collection, led by his daughter, Luisa Bosci, until the new gallery is completed in late 2017. The Buxton family will retain a 40 per cent share of the new centre’s board.
University of Melbourne vice-chancellor Glyn Davis said the new gallery would be part of a future redesign at the Victorian College of the Arts.
“What he’s donated to us is both a collection and a building and that doesn’t happen very much, so we’re very excited about it,” he said.
“We teach many young contemporary artists, so the idea of making available a fine collection of contemporary art for study to our students, as well as the public, it goes to the heart of our commitment to engagement.”
The announcement also adds a major piece of the puzzle to the long mooted Southbank arts precinct. The new gallery is to be built on the corner of Dodds Street, which is to be made into a pedestrian mall, and Southbank Boulevard.
“I’ve always been a long supporter of building an arts precinct in Melbourne and this will be an important part of that precinct,” Professor Davis said.
“It will sit across the road from the National Gallery of Victoria, so, hopefully, people who enjoy the NGV will come across and engage with this collection, too.”
For BRW rich lister Mr Buxton, the new gallery is an extension of his day job.
“My whole life since I left school has been about creating, that’s why I got into property development because I liked building beautiful things and I think the art work is just a progression of that,” he said.
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