Donation … Neil Balnaves at the Mosman Art Gallery.WHEN the media multimillionaire Neil Balnaves moved from one Mosman house to another, he was left with a dilemma: what to do with his collection of paintings?
For two years they gathered dust. But on Thursday they will be unveiled at their new home, the Mosman Art Gallery, by the Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir.
The 16 works Mr Balnaves has donated to his local gallery from his private collection are worth more than $1 million and include some of the most prestigious names in Australian art, including Conrad Martens, Arthur Streeton, Sydney Long, Ethel Carrick Fox, Charles Meere and Margaret Preston.
All the works feature Mosman scenes, often by artists who lived in the city’s wealthiest suburb.
”This is the most significant gift we’ve ever received,” says John Cheeseman, the gallery’s director. ”This collection represents a timeline of Australian art, showing how important Mosman has been in the development of art in Australia.”
Mr Balnaves – who made his fortune as the head of Southern Star behind such TV landmarks as Police Rescue, Blue Heelers, Water Rats and Big Brother – began buying art when he moved from Adelaide to Mosman 43 years ago.
”I originally had an old Federation house, so over the years I decorated it with Federation-style paintings,” Mr Balnaves explains.
”Then I built a new house and found the art didn’t really gel with the contemporary-style architecture. So it was consigned to a storeroom while I worked out what to do with it.”
Fortunately, the walls of his new house aren’t bare. Work by more recent Australian greats such as Sidney Nolan, James Gleeson, Imants Tillers and Ben Quilty are part of the new Balnaves collection.
The businessman recalls being bored when he went to art galleries on school excursions. ”If I can educate kids to have an interest in art because they can relate to the paintings, it will be a bit different to what I experienced,” he says.
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