A dispute has broken out between an artist and an NSW council over a “one of a kind” painting with the handprint of film director Baz Luhrmann, which sold for $ 125,000 after being “turned down” for public collection.
- The donated painting Journeys to Belonging has been rejected by the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council
- The painting just sold for $ 125,000
- The artist wants a positive outcome and would consider donating another artwork
Hunter artist Sharon Davson donated Journeys To Belonging to the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council last June. The mayor accepted it as a council asset for the community’s art collection.
Ms. Davson said the work was conceptually approved by the Council Gallery’s curator in February 2019, and the council repeatedly approved it during the creation.
“If you didn’t think it would be appropriate, you had to tell before you deliver,” she said.
“I was very hurt for a while, very depressed, because I couldn’t get any answers. I still don’t have a straight answer.
“I passed 18 different people on the council.”
However, the council says the painting was not approved by the gallery’s curator as a concept for inclusion in the collection, as claimed.
“The painting was never part of the collection of our regional gallery, but would have been exhibited in our community buildings, including libraries, so that it would be generally accessible in our community,” a statement said.
“It was Ms. Davson’s decision to collect the painting from the council and then sell it.”
Toowoomba businessman and collector Dale Miller, who already owned an artwork by Ms. Davson, bought Journeys To Belonging in August.
“I had a feeling in my stomach,” he said after learning that Luhrmann’s handprint had been signed and donated by him and had been rejected.
“To buy a painting with such a unique story for only $ 125,000, well, great!
“Sharon’s art has inspired people all over the world … and yet she publicly accepted and then rejected a painting. What can I say? This is one for the history books. “
“It checked every box”
The council said the painting was not viewed as an addition to any other contemporary artwork in the collection.
“Our focus for the collection is on developing a cohesive collection of contemporary works of art that maximizes the ability to curate internal exhibitions with consistent content, rationale and relevance for exhibitions in adjacent gallery spaces,” the statement said.
This has been explained to Ms. Davson several times.
Ms. Davson, who said she was a foundation donor to the collection and has had a 30-year relationship with it, said she always wanted to give a painting made specifically for the Port Macquarie collection.
“It’s not like my art is anywhere outside of its subject,” she said.
“Baz Luhrmann is the most famous person to come from Port Macquarie and I met him a few years ago and took his handprint and he signed it… so I built the painting around the Baz Luhrmann handprint.
“It just checked every single box that would be appropriate for this collection.”
Value for tariff payer
In its statement, the council said the cost of maintaining, insuring and caring for assets that are not planned brings with it unexpected costs and liabilities that should not be borne by the public.
However, Ms. Davson said it was important that any public collection should add value.
Ms. Davson said she offered the council an alternative option because she wanted a positive ending.
“I haven’t received any response from my communications about it, so it hurts,” she said.
“I am quite ready to draw a line under all of this and donate another work of art, because then the interest payers win.
“The reasons I wanted to donate in the first place are still valid.
“You may be thinking a little weird that I would even bother with it after all of this, but I’m looking at everything in the longer term.
“Eventually I will be dead, as will all councilors, but the collection will go on for future generations.”
An original reason for donating the painting to the Port Macquarie Collection was to sell art in the area.
“Port Macquarie has been really good to me so it only made sense and I am grateful to be giving something back to this area,” she said.
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