Public philanthropy is something Melbourne is good at and the old town excelled itself last night.
More than 700 people each paid $1220 to see Dame Elisabeth Murdoch unveil the latest masterpiece to join the National Gallery of Victoria's collection at a lavish dinner in the Great Hall.
Some, including Paula Fox (wife of trucking magnate Lindsay), Lady Reid and her daughters, Margaret Ross and Jean Hadges, donated more.
But the most significant contributor to the painting's $2 million purchase price remains anonymous.
The gold-ground painting on a wooden panel, Madonna and Child, is by the late-14th-century Florentine painter Agnolo Gaddi, who worked at the beginning of the Renaissance.
Last night's dinner was part of the week-long celebrations leading up to tomorrow's opening of the $168 million renovation of the NGV's St Kilda Road headquarters. Special guests included the director of the Louvre in Paris, Henri Loyrette, Tate Britain director Stephen Deuchar, Musee de l'Orangerie head Pierre Georgel, and former NGV director Timothy Potts.
Local benefactors included Loti and Victor Smorgon, James Fairfax and representatives of the Myer and Besen families.
Gallery director Gerard Vaughan said the Gaddi was the most significant purchase since Picasso's Weeping Woman nearly 20 years ago. "It provides us with another icon work that we have long sought," he said.
An anonymous benefactor, who gave the gallery a pair of 16th century Russian icons for the reopening, offered to donate money to get a Florentine painting.
"But when the Gaddi came on the market in London in almost mint condition it just knocked our socks off," Dr Vaughan said.
"The only problem was it cost twice as much as we originally planned to spend."
He proposed a fund-raising dinner, with the benefactor agreeing to match the $750,000 it will raise. But the gallery still needed to find about $500,000.
Mrs Fox and Lady Reid and her daughters offered to provide what was needed.
"This is the same story behind the gallery's magnificent collection," Dr Vaughan said.
"All the masterpieces that we have on display have come to us through the community's generosity."
04/03/08 Murdoch defends News Corp The Georgetown Voice - Washington,DC,USA
by John Cooke Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is just like the Jesuits, he told a mostly-full Gaston Hall yesterday, “except we don’t insist on vows of ...
And the powerful Roman catholic, Fascist, former president of Spain, and personal friend of King Juan Carlos of Spain, José María Aznar is current President (of the board of directors). He is the one Hugo Chavez called a Fascist and King Juan Carlos told Hugo to "shut up".
(Mr. Aznar has been a Distinguished Scholar at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Georgetown University since 2004 ~Link