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CAPO – bringing beautiful art within your reach

Calum Stenning

The annual CAPO art auction is looming – we tell you everything you need to know before you place a bid!

For the longest time, there have been patrons to the arts. The Medici family of Florence, Lord Chesterfield, Margaret of Navarre and numerous popes funded some of the greatest art history has seen. Artists such as Picasso, Leonardo Di Vinci and Chagall produced work on the dollar and support of those who thought art was worthwhile.

Closer to home, for more than 30 years, the Capital Arts Patrons’ Organisation (CAPO) has carried the torch for local artists, providing over $2.2 million in fellowships and awards since its establishment in 1983. In 2014, TV personality and ANU School of Art alumnus Paul McDermott joined CAPO as a patron, and has been an active part of CAPO functions since.


McDermott takes his role of “patron” very seriously. “My main role is to attract attention to CAPO to be a buzzing bee or a fly in the ointment,” he explains. “It means I get to dress dapper for a night, bring an air of hobo sophistication to an event, add a pithy comment or two to the catalogue and see amazing work by local artists.”

The annual CAPO auction has been held at the Canberra Museum and Gallery since 2013, and returns again on 22 September, providing the opportunity for one and all to assume the mantle of patron, and support the arts community.

It also provides a chance to dress up, sip champagne, and eat platters of gourmet food while perusing an incredible array of art – and potentially taking an art piece home for permanent display.

With donations made by artists across a range of practices and mediums, including jewellery, sculpture, photography and textiles, the CAPO auction is an opportunity to see (and bid on) a great variety of artwork.

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It provides people with a discerning eye a chance to buy significant artistic works at a reduced price. Artists donate their work and CAPO starts bidding at just 50 per cent of the value of the work. You could be lucky and grab something for less than it would sell in a gallery, or you could partake of the excitement and adrenaline of a live-bid – knowing your dollars support the artists of tomorrow.

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“I enjoy seeing the incredible diversity of work in the gallery,” says Paul. “It’s proof of a thriving community. I think the generosity of the artists is extraordinary. They are donating part of themselves to help others. I find it exceedingly difficult to part with anything I’ve created which is why I find live performance alluring – it cannot be held, it is momentary & fleeting.”

Funding one’s artistic expression is a perpetual hurdle for artists, so CAPO is instrumental in providing support for those pursuing their craft.

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“I hope CAPO raises great mountains of cash, great oceans of lolly, and these monies are given to worthy workers in the field of self-expression to fuel their hunger and desire to create,” McDermott says. “Make work, create, thrive. Never concern yourself with the banalities of existence like eating and sleeping. Be consumed by yourself. You’re the only company you require – and you certainly don’t need anyone telling you what to do.”

McDermott notes, “In times of great hardships extraordinary art is often produced. Sometimes we say more when we are silenced. Art is liquid, constantly evolving, reacting, transforming and, like water, will always find a way.”

With music by the Canberra City Big Band, we have heard that McDemott may be convinced to sing a few songs on the night…

Meanwhile, for people interested in seeing what artworks are on offer before making a bid, CMAG will display all the works from Sunday 10 September, or you can peruse the catalogue here.

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 the essentials

What: The 2017 CAPO Art Auction Gala “Putting on the Glitz”
When: Friday 22 September from 6.45 to 11pm. Live auction starts at 8.30pm
Where: Canberra Museum and Gallery, City
Tickets: $120 and can be bought here
More information: capo.org.au

Slider image is of Su Hudson’s Moruya Flats: $850

Silver ring is by Cinnamon Lee: $600

CAPO receives generous support from the Canberra business community including HerCanberra, which is a proud sponsor and supporter of CAPO’s artistic endeavours.


Calum Stenning

Calum Stenning is Her Canberra’s newest and most male (read: only) intern. Three years spent living overseas has given him a renewed appreciation for Canberra life. Every day starts with coffee and the Sydney Morning Herald crossword at a favourite coffee haunt, as he is wary of the perils of dementia, and thinks crosswords are a viable safeguard. If he lives to a dementia-appropriate age (evidence says he won’t), he’ll let us know. More about the Author

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