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Inside the Macquarie Group Collection

Since its establishment in 1987, the Macquarie Group Collection has been an important part of the organisation. Focusing on the works of emerging Australian artists, the Collection now has a global reputation among the arts community. Helen Burton, the Director of the Macquarie Group Collection, shares with us her insights into its significance.

Can you tell us what the Macquarie Group Collection’s mission is?

Helen: The Collection’s mission has evolved over the years. It began in 1987 as a way of reflecting Macquarie’s emergence as an Australian Financial Institution at that time. To this day, our focus is supporting and investing in emerging Australian artists from an early stage in their careers.

At the outset, the Collection adopted the theme of The Land and Its Psyche. It recognises that many Australian artists, both indigenous and non-indigenous, have a deep understanding of the landscape around them and they find fascinating ways to interpret it. 

We have an art committee consisting of 14 staff members from a variety of areas and levels across the Group, who are all passionate about art, and we’re also guided by an external curatorial consultant.

The Collection quickly evolved into a philanthropic gesture with a focus on supporting emerging Australian artists by purchasing their artwork to fund and sustain their creative endeavours.

Unlike many corporate collections, Macquarie does not sell Collection art for the purpose of purchasing new works.  

Why is it important to support artists and to foster an appreciation of art within the community?

Helen: Macquarie has always been a great supporter of the creative arts, particularly the visual arts. For example, Macquarie has been a long-time supporter of the National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of NSW.

Personally, I feel that it is important to keep the creative arts industry thriving. A vibrant and creative part of society is essential, to reflect the world at large. 

We frequently hear that by buying their works, we support emerging artists in a very practical way.  Some of the artists we’ve supported early in their careers have gone on to do great things and we’re really proud to have been able to play a role in their career. This is a particularly rewarding part of my job and shows the importance of Macquarie’s long term support of emerging artists.   

Since the Collection was established, how has it grown and developed?

Helen: Since 1987, our collection has grown to more than 800 pieces and is displayed across 40 Macquarie offices worldwide.

There have been continuous transitions in the committee as new members join and changes among its members have influenced the style and type of artworks acquired in subtle ways.

The redevelopment of some of Macquarie’s offices has provided more opportunities to expose the Collection to more people. In particular, with the open atrium at our global headquarters at 50 Martin Place, Sydney, there are now more opportunities for staff and visitors to enjoy the Collection. 

Can you tell us about some of the initiatives the Collection has underway to support Australian artists?

Helen: To mark the 25th anniversary of the Macquarie Group Collection in 2012, we published a book which features 100 works and showcases the diversity of Australian contemporary art.

In the same year, we launched the Macquarie Group Emerging Artist Prize to commence the next 25 years of the Collection. In 2017, we changed the process from being nominated by a Collection artist, to be open to any emerging Australian artist whose work fits the theme of The Land and Its Psyche.

To mark the Collection’s 30th anniversary we launched the Macquarie Group First Nations Emerging Curator Award, in partnership with the Australia Council for the Arts. The winner is now being mentored by senior First Nations curators and the Macquarie Group Collection to produce an exhibition later in 2018. The recipient also has the opportunity to travel with the Australia Council’s touring group to First Nation Biennales.

Can you tell us how Macquarie engages with the Collection?

Helen: Macquarie employees enjoy the works on display in our offices. We invite employees to join our tours and ‘How to Start Collecting Art’ panel discussions.

We also engage Macquarie’s employees and the public through our website and the Collection’s Instagram account, @macquarieart.

Are aspects of the Collection open to the public?

Helen: The art is on display in the lobbies of our buildings and in client receiving areas. Our 50 Martin Place building and 1 Martin Place offices have participated in Sydney Open so the public can see a number of the works from the Collection on display in certain areas of our buildings at that time. Also in Sydney, the committee regularly hosts cocktail tours for groups from local institutions such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales and charities.

We distribute artwork across our 40 offices worldwide – why do you think art is important in the workplace?

Helen: Art is important as it enhances the workplace experience for staff and guests. More importantly, the collection links the 40 offices that have the artwork displayed because there is a common theme. The reminder of Macquarie’s Australian heritage and long-term commitment to visual artists is significant.

We see the Collection as having an increasingly positive impact on our people. We have a philanthropically-minded workforce and there’s genuine pride in the collection, its history and founding principles.   

To keep up with the latest events and learn more about the Macquarie Group Collection, follow us on Instagram @macquarieart.

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