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Tuesday, May 11, 2021
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Female patronage supporting women in the arts

Inspired by the Know My Name movement and in a cultural partnership with the National Gallery of Australia, HERE I AM: Art by Great Women celebrates the importance and power of patronage.

Presented by Kambri at ANU, curated by aMBUSH Gallery and with over 100 featured artists, HERE I AM aims to re-energise Canberra’s cultural landscape by showcasing some of Australia’s best contemporary Indigenous and non-Indigenous female creative talent.

As a part of the festival, the Hon Ashley Dawson Damer spoke with Maryanne Voyazis, head of development and executive director of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation, about the power of patronage and importance of women supporting women in the arts.

“I very much enjoy being in this world of men … I have enjoyed promoting women in the arts and exhibitions,” said Ms Dawson Damer.

“Maryanne and I are women in the arts world, and we have chummed up and we have had extraordinary adventures … we’ve even done a dance in the hall of mirrors in Versailles.”

As a director of the Yullis group of companies since 2000, an NGA Foundation Board member and a trustee of the Art Gallery of NSW, Ms Dawson Damer has a deep appreciation for performing and visual arts. Her latest book, A Particular Woman, discusses her life and work as one of Australia’s greatest art philanthropists.

“Patronage is not a linear thing. You think patronage would be a woman in power and it affects women in the arts world,” said Ms Dawson Damer.

“It’s more of an ephemeral thing. A woman who is in the centre of power, where power resides, will always raise the profile of other women and this is the key to it.

“Women have been supporting women, there haven’t been a lot of us but we’re growing in our strength, our power and our patronage.”

According to Ms Voyazis, the current exhibition and the broader Know My Name initiative has been made entirely possible through philanthropic giving at all levels.

“We have a principal patron, we have major donors and then we have a collective of donors. To make it possible, $2.185 million was donated,” said Ms Voyazis.

“It was over 500 donors. Some people gave $100 and other people gave tens of thousands of dollars.

“Where we know the gender of the donor, 70% of our donors for that campaign are women.”

Ms Voyazis said the power of philanthropy at all levels can help art institutions and said talking about patronage inspires others to donate.

“It doesn’t matter how much you give or what you can give but it’s important to do it because the things you feel passionate about, you make a difference. I think that people talking about patronage and making it accessible makes it feel like it’s not something rich people do, it’s something that everybody does.”

While women in the arts have come a long way, according to Ms Dawson Damer, women need to continue to speak to other women in power.

“If you’re supported by good women, there’s nowhere you can’t go.”

HERE I AM: Art by Great Women is running until 28 February. 

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