(Bloomberg) — Some of Australia and New Zealand’s biggest financial institutions are selling down their vast art collections after decades of holding pieces by some of the region’s best-known painters.
In the next few days, the Melbourne-based Construction and Building Unions Superannuation Fund is auctioning the last of about 300 pieces, which included works from noted Australian artists Arthur Boyd, Emily Kngwarreye, Margaret Preston and Brett Whiteley. The final tranche to go on sale features about two dozen Indigenous artists.
The pension fund purchased the pieces over several years three decades ago for about A$2 million ($1.2 million) and has made what looks like a tidy profit — A$11 million haul raised so far. Yet for the institution, which handles A$70 billion in pension investments on behalf of 850,000 members, the gain is barely a rounding error on a slow day.
The sale comes as Australian pension funds face heightened scrutiny of their balance sheets. Last year, new rules required funds to file detailed reports on their holdings every six months across a range of asset classes and derivatives. In contrast, the world’s largest banks and institutions are still buying art, acting as patrons and being described as the new Medicis, the Florentine banking family that famously supported Renaissance artists.
The union pension fund, known as Cbus, declined requests for interviews. “To get the best outcomes for our members we are now offering the collection for sale,” Cbus deputy chief investment officer Brett Chatfield previously said to Australian publication Money Mag.
The original goal of the superannuation fund’s collection was to bolster the community at the same time as making a tidy profit, and the works had been hung in regional galleries, Melbourne artist and collector Norman Rosenblatt said.
“Every company — everybody — should have an artistic conscience in this country,” said Rosenblatt, whose uncle bought for the Cbus collection starting in the late 1980s. “We’ve lost our corporate soul in helping the arts — we’ve just lost it.”
The auctions have been successful, with record prices for paintings that exceeded estimates, during a banner time for art valuations. The global art market recovered strongly in 2021 after a dip in 2020, according to an Art Basel and UBS report. Aggregate sales of art and antiques by dealers and auction houses reached an estimated $65.1 billion, surpassing the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, the report said.
The auction of the remaining 26 Indigenous artworks ends Tuesday, with works from artists including Johnny W. Tjupurrula, Timmy Payungka Tjapangati and Pansy Napangardi. The sale is expected to total between A$120,000 and $160,000, said Damian Hackett, director of auction house Deutscher and Hackett.
Cbus is the latest regional institution to auction off artworks. A few months ago, one of Australia’s largest banks, NAB, sold the majority of its collection and redirected the funds to philanthropy. “While the art is appreciated, it is clearly not core to NAB’s role as a bank and supporting customers,” the bank said in a statement.
Earlier this year, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark criticized the Bank of New Zealand for offloading its collection of 200 pieces.
Clark said the bank shouldn’t have sold work acquired while it was a state-owned company, before it was privatized.
“These are very significant New Zealand works of art which were acquired by a state company,” she told Radio New Zealand. She called for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage to intervene.
The bank said it had consulted over a “two-year period” on the future of the collection, and funds from the sale would be put towards its philanthropic foundation. “BNZ has retained a curated collection of works that are of particular significance to the bank, and these will continue to be displayed within our shared spaces and available on loan for public exhibitions,” a spokesman told Bloomberg.
Rosenblatt lives in the affluent Melbourne suburb of Brighton. His expansive personal art collection adorns the walls of his home of 35 years, and he has a glossy, hardcover catalog of the Cbus collection. It is a heavy tome of hundreds of pages, documenting each artwork in great detail.
Rosenblatt said that while his uncle was tasked with building a collection that would make a return over time, he also strongly believed the works should benefit the community. “It’s petty cash to this company,” he said.
Philip Hoffman, founder and chief executive officer of The Fine Art Group, based in London, said rising demand for fine art would be fueling decisions to sell now.
“Despite Covid and all the talk of the downside, the very wealthy made a huge amount of money, maybe doubled their wealth, and they’ve been plowing their money into alternative assets,” Hoffman said. He said hundreds of families are looking to spend anywhere between $1 million and $3 billion in art.
The BNZ collection — which included works by artists Colin McCahon, Rita Angus, Gordon Walters, Toss Woollaston, Gretchen Albrecht, Milan Mrkusich, Don Binney and Ralph Hotere — was estimated to go for NZ$10 million but shook out at NZ$15 million — “far more than any other auction” in New Zealand, said Charles Ninow, the director of Webb’s Auction House, which handled the sale.
“The market is going through something that’s quite amazing,” Ninow said.
Part of Rosenblatt’s own extensive personal collection is currently on display at a suburban gallery in Melbourne. He has seen how the arts industry has suffered through the pandemic, and he wants corporations to think about how they can give more back to the arts community.
He wished Cbus would consider giving some of the money from the sale back to the arts community.
“I personally think it’s been handled, artistically, very callously,” he said.
‘Amazing’ art, dance program a hit for local seniors (3 photos)
The Orillia and District Arts Council (ODAC) has married dance, visual art, and art history in a comprehensive new arts program created specifically for local seniors.
The HeARTS (Helping Elders with ARTS) program is held every Tuesday and Thursday at St. James’ Anglican Church; the goal is to get participants’ bodies moving before trying their hand at various disciplines of art.
The 26-week program began in September after ODAC secured federal government funding earlier this year, and each lesson includes a dance component, supplementary lectures on the session’s artistic theme, and — of course — the opportunity to create art.
Organizers offer a wide-ranging variety of programming and artistic styles for the participants to learn about, ranging from Picasso-inspired self portraits, to re-creations of Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, Japanese Suminigashi marbling, and more.
An “intelligent” approach was brought to the program, organizers say, adding they hope to give seniors legitimate opportunities to explore their artistic sides, as well as the opportunity to self-reflect.
“It (isn’t) juvenile, like arts and crafts. We wanted to do something intelligent and fresh, and have something that seniors could be excited to come to weekly,” said HeARTS art facilitator Sukhi Kaur.
“They’re taken on a journey of self-reflection that they get to explore through different art techniques, and different artists and activities,” Kaur said. “By the end, they’ll hopefully create a small body of work that represents their time here, as well as connecting to the memories that the art prompts are supposed to bring up, and they have the opportunity to share that with new people.”
Each session’s programming is designed to tie into a specific theme, Kaur said, noting those themes are guided by participant feedback. For example, a dance session based in mirroring was included with a lecture on Picasso before participants painted their own self portraits.
A variety of guest artists — and even a harp player during the Vincent Van Gogh session — have been brought to the program to enrich its sessions.
Above all, however, the program offers the opportunity for seniors to have fun and socialize.
“We were hoping that it would be an opportunity post-COVID for seniors to socialize,” Kaur said. “They come here for art, and they come here for dance, but they get to talk about their week. There’s been some new friendships made here that I’ve got to watch flourish over the weeks.”
The idea is catching on.
“Our board made a decision some time back that we wanted to be more socially involved with vulnerable or underrepresented groups, and we thought seniors would be a good fit,” said ODAC board secretary Christine Hager.
“It was a slow start … but now it’s catching people by word of mouth. They are telling other people what’s going on here, and they’re having a lot of fun — that’s the main thing.”
So far, the program has been a success, with one participant celebrating it as “an amazing get together for seniors” that got her out of a rut through COVID-19.
“It gives us something to look forward to, shows us our cognitive abilities, and motivates us to do better than we thought we could do,” said Donna Howlett.
“I love the dance class — just hearing the music has brought me back to my childhood, and the art class is so interesting. I did not know that I had some talent there,” said Maryann Van Arem.
Miriam Goldberger, the program’s dance instructor, said she enthusiastically joined the program when she learned it would incorporate multiple styles of art, and highlighted the importance of movement for both physical health and creating the right mindset to engage with art.
“Movement and physical activity prevent serious physical and mental and emotional decline of seniors,” she explained. “It also really lubricates all the creativity and the social goals that happen with the other part of the program.”
“They’re relaxed, they’re comfortable with themselves, they’re feeling positive,” she said. “They’re open to new things.”
Beyond offering arts programming to seniors, the HeARTS program also serves as a placement opportunity for Georgian College Social Service Worker students.
Program volunteer Joan Berndt said the addition of these students is “incredibly beneficial” to breaking down stigma surrounding seniors.
“The addition of social work students is incredibly beneficial because they don’t get frontline experience when they’re in school,” Berndt said. “They learn about seniors, (and) there is a discrimination in some younger people, that they don’t want to work for seniors, but they’re meeting some fabulous seniors, and it’s working.”
The HeARTS program is offered to local seniors free of charge. It takes place at St. James’ Anglican Church, every Tuesday and Thursday, with a drop-in session from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., with dance and arts programming taking place from 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Organizers are hoping to secure funding to continue the program following its current 26-week run.
Christmas-themed “One Man Art Show” at Evergreen Park – EverythingGP
This will be his second show in the Chuckwagon room at the TARA Centre, which he thoroughly enjoys, having fallen in love with it during his last show in the fall.
” It’s so perfect (Evergreen Park) has so much room there to park and the room is just the perfect size, and like you said the light shows out there and stuff, the whole thing has such a nice Christmas feel to it, they’ve had so many events over there lately here with the Christmas theme. It just fits in perfectly, again, with my niche and stuff I couldn’t imagine a better location to do this,” said McCaffrey.
He does expect a bigger crowd for this time round after his last “One Man Art Show” took place at the start of hunting season, which is a big chunk of his target demographic.
“They’ll be a little bit of new stuff, but mostly stuff that was already there in September, but there were a lot of people that didn’t get a chance to come to the show in September because of hunting season and different stuff like that, and I thought Christmas would be another opportunity for those people to come out.”
McCaffrey says among the stuff he’s bringing back from the September show is a piece not for sale. It is a portrait of his granddaughter that he enjoys and just likes to show off to the community.
McCaffrey’s “One Man Art Show” runs December 7, and 8, starting at noon until 9 p.m. both days, at Evergreen Park in the TARA Centre, inside of the Chuckwagon Room.
If you want to browse McCaffrey’s collection online, click here.
The Ottawa Art Gallery and The Ottawa Hospital select winners of the TRIAS Art Prize – The Ottawa Hospital
The winning artwork will be displayed at The Ottawa Hospital campuses as a way of enhancing wellness through art.
OTTAWA – December 6, 2022 – The Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) and The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) have selected the winners of the 2022 TRIAS Art Prize. This included five prizes in three categories.
- Art and Science Residency winner: Svetlana Swinimer
- Indigenous and Inuit Healing Art Award winner: Koomuatuk (Kuzy) Curley, Sikusilingmiut
- Honourable Mention: Christine Toulouse, Courage
- Art as Healing winner: Andrew Morrow, Neither Brightly Lit Nor Completely Enlightened
- Honourable Mention: Jovita Akahome, Soul
TRIAS Art Prize is a juried art competition that intersects art, science, medicine, and community. All winning artwork will be displayed at The Ottawa Hospital with the aim of enhancing care through restorative art, engaging the community, and supporting artists from Ottawa, Eastern Ontario, Western Quebec, and Nunavut.
“They say all good things come in threes and the TRIAS Art Prize program is no exception, bringing together Art, Health and Community, through three great prize categories, that demonstrate the power of working together to bring about positive change. We are appreciative of the artists who submitted and of the jury who were challenged to choose from over 130 applications!” expressed Alexandra Badzak, Director and Chief Executive Officer at the Ottawa Art Gallery.
“We are grateful to our partners at the OAG for the opportunity to combine art, science, and medicine to help us create a hospital environment that is reflective of the diverse community we serve while showcasing TOH’s core values of research, medical care, and healing,” said Joanne Read, Chief Planning and Development Officer at The Ottawa Hospital. “Congratulations to the winners of this year’s TRIAS Art Prize.”
TRIAS Art Award is part of the Creative Wellbeing program, a city-building initiative connecting artists and communities with hospital researchers and clinicians to create original works of art to enhance hospital spaces. Creative Wellbeing aims to increase awareness of patient care at The Ottawa Hospital, incorporate art as part of the patient experience, and further develop art as therapy programming.
Ottawa residents Jennifer Toby and Dr. François Auclair, who have been integral to Creative Wellbeing since its inception, have provided the inaugural funding for the awards. The Indigenous and Inuit Healing Art Honourable Mention prize is provided by The Lawson Foundation.
For media inquiries or to book an interview:
Ottawa Art Gallery:
Officer, Media, Public and Francophone Relations
The Ottawa Hospital:
Media Relations Officer
About the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG)
The Ottawa Art Gallery is situated on traditional Anishinābe Aki and is Ottawa’s municipal art gallery and cultural hub. Located in Ottawa’s downtown core, the expanded Gallery is a contemporary luminous cube designed by KPMB Architects and Régis Côté et associés.
About The Ottawa Hospital (TOH)
The Ottawa Hospital is committed to providing each patient with the world-class care, exceptional service and compassion that they would want for their loved ones. Over their three campuses, they serve tens of thousands of patients in Ottawa and the surrounding area each year. They rank 5th in Canada for total research funding and published over 2,200 research papers in 2019. As one of the largest research hospitals throughout the country, they are constantly innovating and providing new insight into the healthcare sector.
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