A Soirée in the Gallery

Oct 8, 2017

The Joys of Benefaction

James Erskine, a media entrepreneur in global sports and entertainment marketing and a passionate gallerist and art-collector, was the guest speaker at the Foundation’s August Soiree Fundraiser. As well as being entertained by anecdotes of the art world, members and their guests heard that, from his experience, benefaction – whether it be the donation of artworks or funds – generates feelings of “contentment without loss”.

It was impressive to learn that our speaker had donated a familiar work -the maquette for Antony Gormley’s iconic Angel of the North – to the National Gallery Canberra in 2010. Many of us may have come face-to-face with this artwork in the gallery’s grounds unaware, until tonight, of its provenance. It was very amusing to hear from James that this stunning maquette, in another life, was used as a beach-towel rack by the Erskine children!

The Foundation was on the receiving end of his generosity that night. It was announced after the formalities that James was gifting an oil painting by John Olsen to the Gallery Collection. Now we discovered what was under the cloth -not beach-towels- that had draped the easel up front all night! Excitable Tree 1969 a mellow, richly-coloured work in golds and burgundies was unveiled. The choice of this beautiful work supports the idea of building local connections that James adheres to – and John Olsen is certainly claimed in part as “local”. The opportunity for supporters to engage in the benefaction process was also initiated when James threw down a gauntlet to the Foundation. If up to $250,000 can be raised within six months, he will donate the equivalent amount in contemporary works of art – our Chair, Judy Hart, graciously and confidently took up the challenge.

The theme of generosity was furthered during the evening by the acknowledgement of significant gifts to the Gallery from Stephen Alward and Mark Wakely. The announcement of their subsequent appointment as Governors delighted the audience as much as their donations of ceramics by Honor Freeman and Gwyn Hanssen-Pigott.

As we applauded acts of philanthropy throughout the night it was a fitting touch that a replica origami boat, signifying donation to the Gallery’s acquisition of Ale-x Seton’s Paper Armada 2015, had been placed on each table.

Thank you to all those ‘contented’ benefactors that have – gained so much in the process of giving!

Article by Jennifer Smyth-Davey

John Tate, Cathy Tate and Rob Henderson at the Soirée

Sue Rabbitt and Laurel Bale at the Soirée