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Giving Changed

Inside Michael Audain's personal art collection Add to ...

This is part of The Globe and Mail's in-depth look at the evolution of philanthropy. Read more from the series here.

Michael Audain ranks among the country’s most important visual-arts philanthropists, not just because he has a lot of money and he gives it away, but because behind those gifts is a deep understanding and passion for visual art. The collection he and his wife, Yoshiko Karasawa, have amassed, is astonishing: several hundred works, by artists ranging from Andy Warhol to Jeff Wall; Emily Carr to Lawren Harris.

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Some 170 of these works – from both their personal collection and from works they have donated to the Vancouver Art Gallery – have been installed at the VAG for Shore, Forest and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection, which opens Saturday.

Audain’s love of art is palpable in any conversation that turns to visual art, and many of them do. In his essay for the show’s catalogue, he notes that he was considered “rather peculiar” when at school, he decorated his locker with prints of Dutch Old Masters rather than hockey posters or Marilyn Monroe pin-ups.

Audain began collecting some 40 years ago, buying art even though he and his then-wife relied on thrift shops for their furniture.

“At one time we had a limit of $25 and then we moved to $50 and then $100,” Audain, 74, said in his usually art-filled office at Polygon Homes in Vancouver this week. (Many of the walls are now bare, the art removed for the VAG show.) “Once I got over $100, that became very serious.”

His first wife still has their first purchase, a work by bill bissett.

“Even today, I buy art in order to live with it at home or in the office,” he writes in the essay, “never to store it away in a vault.”

The Globe spoke with Audain about some of the works in the show during an interview in his office, and by e-mail. Click here for his tour through some of his collection, or on the sidebar near the top of this story.

Shore, Forest and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection is at the Vancouver Art Gallery until Jan. 29.

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