Melbourne’s newest museum is soon to open, thanks to property developer Michael Buxton’s donation of art from his collection. What drove him to give it away?
We enter the home of Melbourne property mogul Michael Buxton via his basement garage. A monolithic steel door swings open sideways, hydraulic hinges purring like the portal of some futuristic vault. The simile is appropriate, really, because once inside the Nonda Katsalidis-designed Wave House, which Buxton had built at the end of this leafy cul-de-sac in the well-heeled suburb of Brighton, we are surrounded by dramatic riches.
Whether it’s the Brett Whiteley in the vestibule (Lavender Bay Evening, 1974) or the Juan Davila in the study (The Studio of the Painter, 2006), the entire space is awash with gorgeous and gaudy splashes and lumps of wealth, rendered in oil and acrylic and thread and fur and bronze and bone. On display I don’t see any of his many Howard Arkleys or Callum Mortons or Bill Hensons – nor his Rosalie Gascoignes or Emily Floyds or Pat Brassingtons – but Buxton has a cache of those as well.
For a short while longer, anyway.
A few years ago, Buxton announced that he was giving his vast and forensically assembled collection of contemporary Australian art to the University of Melbourne. The hoard – which he acquired over more than two decades, comprising in excess of 300 works by more than 50 artists – is valued at somewhere beyond $10 million.
Images by Kristoffer Paulsen