Audain Art Museum talk explores art and philanthropy 

Michael Audain and Bob Rennie talk about why they have established their important collections

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Collection creator Michael Audain (above) joins Bob Rennie in a panel on philanthropy in art.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • Collection creator Michael Audain (above) joins Bob Rennie in a panel on philanthropy in art.

Lord Beaverbrook, Michael Audain and Bob Rennie — what these three have in common is a love of art and a desire to share it.

And all three used the wealth gained through their business lives to establish significant art collections that are today shared with the public.

Media magnate Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, died in 1964, but not before establishing one of the most important galleries in Canada in New Brunswick. The touring masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery are currently on display at Whistler's Audain Art Gallery until mid-September.

Audain, the chairman of Polygon Homes, opened his gallery in the resort earlier this year.

And Rennie, the CEO of Rennie Marketing Systems, established the Rennie Collection of contemporary Canadian art at the Wing Sang Gallery in East Vancouver in 2009.

The Audain's curator Darrin Martens will moderate a discussion between Audain and Rennie about the value of establishing art collections for the public through private means.

That discussion — The Art of Philanthropy: Collecting and Museum Building — takes place at the Audain Art Museum on Thursday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.

Martens said the first public discussion by Audain on his collection of modern Mexican art earlier this year whetted the developer's appetite.

"We saw that this was something that was highly subscribed to and a great evening, popular with lots of members and board members. We wanted to do something like that again," Martens recalls.

"We asked ourselves how we make these collections accessible. Bringing in the Masterworks from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery — there are some interesting parallels in relation to philanthropy relating to collecting and museum building."

The timing is perfect to draw a comparison with the visiting Masterworks collection in the same building.

To add a little extra flavour to the discussion, Martens brought in Vancouver's "condo king" Rennie, who established his own collection in a slightly different way from Audain's approach.

Rennie and Audain will talk about these experiences.

Martens says: "I am curious about who these individuals are behind these collections. I will take the position on the panel as moderator but also the perspective of Lord Beaverbrook, who is no longer with us.

"I'm also thinking about the act of collecting. How has it stayed the same over the last 100 years and how has it changed through the involvement of these different people?"

Martens also wants to consider the uniqueness of each of the three collections and the priorities of each philanthropist.

"As a curator, what draws me to artists and working with artists is that this is something that is different to what I do on a daily basis. It is outside my comfort level. I think there is this element of a creative culture," he says.

"It might be the same way for these philanthropists. There is something special about seeing a block of cedar being transformed into a pole or mask."

The event is free with the price of admission to the museum, or to holders of Audain Art Museum annual memberships.

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