A lot of planning goes into arranging a major art prize and finding sponsors is one of the more delicate tasks.
Peter Nevile donates the prize money for the runner-up at the Maritime Art Prize & Exhibition.
The $25,000 in prizemoney makes it one of the most lucrative in Melbourne.
The Australian National Line is a major donor and Mr Nevile got involved through his pro-bono work for exhibition organisers, the Mission to Seafarers.
“I don’t claim to be an expert,” he told Docklands News, but he does like the sea and has a feel for an artistic vision.
The theme for this year’s exhibition, which opens on October 30, is “The Relationship of Humanity to the Sea”.
The past two exhibitions have been held online so the Mission is looking forward to the public once again visiting their heritage building.
Mr Nevile began sponsoring the prize seven years ago and will be making a speech at the opening ceremony on October 29.
He runs a commercial law firm in Collins St but has always aimed for a “quirky” practice.
“I want my clients to feel at home here,” he told Docklands News. Many are overseas business clients, so he has a collection of artefacts in his board room, including a large Buddha.
“If you walk out of this room and write down your recollection you’ll miss out the nuances, the time of the day, the light,” he said. “The immediate can’t give you the nuances. Art is a vision re-encountered in tranquility.”
Mr Nevile and his young solicitor mates first got involved in art as a social activity.
A gallery director introduced them to young artists such as Dale Hickey, Peter Booth and Paul Partos.
They had a few drinks together then they bought work to the value of $1500. He still has these in his home collection.
That early start made him aware of the presence art can introduce into a room and the way works grow on a viewer over time.
He says there are two ways of looking at the paintings in the exhibition: as metaphors for the human struggle as depicted in Old Man and the Sea and Moby Dick.
“They’re both good sea tales, both express man’s struggle against nature, the capricious forces of nature,” he said.
But when he saw a painting of a lifeboat adrift in the sea it made him think of the former.
Paintings are about ideas and this year’s theme accentuates the human response to the oceans.
20th Maritime Art Prize & Exhibition, Mission to Seafarers, September 30 to October 16. •
Caption: Art prize sponsor Peter Nevile in his eclectic boardroom.