Vizard’s spin doctor Mike Smith defiantly declared last week that his
client had “donated millions of dollars worth or art” through his
various charitable and philanthropic ventures. But exactly how he did
it is a little hard to fathom.

There’s no doubt that the Steve
Vizard Foundation owns one of Australia’s most impressive contemporary
art collections worth many millions of dollars, including works by
Tracey Moffatt, Ricky Swallow, Howard Arkley, Patricia Piccinini and
many others.

It was assembled for him by the Sir Ian Potter
Museum of Art at Melbourne University. These experts have spent many
hundreds of hours working for Vizard, and two years ago even produced a
fabulous 174-page glossy book, See Here Now: Vizard Foundation Art Collection of the 1990s, cataloguing every work his charity has acquired. The opening acknowledgements include the following:

The collection itself was developed by curatorial committee
members Eritus Professor Margaret Manion AO, Frances Lindsay, Steve
Vizard AM, Dr Roger Benjamin, Dr Alison Inglis, Merryn Gates and Dr
Chris McAuliffe. Staff of the Ian Potter Museum of Art and the
University of Melbourne Conservation Service have undertaken
substantial work in the administration and display of the Vizard
Foundation Art Collection over the past decade.

Of course, all of this adds to the value and prestige of the collection – but who gets the benefit?

Crikey’s famous sister-in-law Patricia Piccinini finds one of her most prominent works, Psychogeography,
on the cover. And it so happens that Vizard’s purchase has been
incredibly profitable, with the Melbourne University team picking it up
for him for just $2,000 in the late 1990s. This is what we carried in
Crikey Daily on 30 November 2003 about the sale of one of the prints
that Vizard owns:

Patricia’s success in Venice appears to be causing a flurry
of sales in the secondary market as owners of her work make
extraordinary profits. Mike Gibson’s wife has doubled her money in
little more than 12 months with the hammer price of $67,500 for
Psychogeography at Sotheby’s last week. To work out the purchase price
you need to add the buyers premium of about 8% and GST, so the new
owner of Psychogeography paid more than $80,000.

Vizard made a promise at Melbourne Airport ten days ago: “I want to be
crystal clear: I am deeply, deeply sorry and I intend to work actively
over the rest of my life to try to set things right.”

Given that
Margaret Manion was one of three character referees in court for him
last week, we look forward to the former funny man announcing that he
is donating the entire collection to the institution which incurred so
much cost putting together something so profitable for him.

not talking about lending it or donating some of it. Get it valued,
Steve, and donate the lot – lock, stock and barrel. That would be a
good first step down the road to recovering your reputation, and might
stop people saying you’re an aggressive tax planner with deep pockets
and short arms.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey