“It’s a website where people can go and find an artist they like, where they can philanthropise them and then see more of their work,” Ms Grey said.
She said artists often reverse-engineer their art to fit what funding is available. “I call it the arts funding apocalypse and I am finding people feel there is a lot of tyranny around arts funding. I wanted to create a place that is free from that.”
Ms Grey, who worked on the project for two years, said artists have been enthusiastic about the site, hoping benefactors will now be attracted. “One of the things that comes back from governments and arts organisations is that they want us to be more self-sufficient. So, we wanted to find a way to give artists a little bit more control and power.”
Bendigo Art Gallery director Jessica Bridgfoot said while the “pot of money” available for artists and institutions is shrinking, she hopes Mr Guest’s gift will encourage others interested in the arts to consider their capacity to give.
“Over the years Paul has supported the gallery in many ways – through acquisitions, through the Paul Guest Prize [for drawing], and he has also brought in his own networks in which has created a community of giving,” Bridgfoot said. “His close relationships with artists is also honourable, as he has played the role of patron to many significant artists, collecting their work in depth over the course of their career. He is in many ways the epitome of an excellent benefactor.”
Mr Guest said the important reward of philanthropy is in the giving and the knowledge that his collection strategies remain as a “living” reminder of the period represented by the art works given to the Bendigo Gallery. The works donated are from artists such as Vernon Ah Kee, Gordon Bennett, George Baldessin, Dorothy Braund, Judy Cassab, Robert Juniper and Lisa Roet.
Awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2013 for services to the community and the sport of rowing, Mr Guest said his friendships with artists have been a two-way street. “I have learned as much from them as they have received from my support throughout their careers,” he said.
The Paul Guest Collection is at Bendigo Art Gallery from December 7 to March 1. See the Bendigo Art Gallery site for more information.