Dr Chau Chak Wing on the passion that led to his $15 million donation to create a cultural landmark.
In these unprecedented times, the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt by almost every organisation in Australia, with some of the worst affected those within the creative and cultural industries.
Australia is home to one of the richest arts and cultural industries in the world, one which protects the history of the past whilst nurturing the emerging. The importance of the industry and those within it does not stop there, as the industry represents 6.5% of the nation’s GDP or $111.7 billion per year.
The severe damage to Australia’s arts and cultural industry is not only economically damaging, but more importantly, greatly compromises the cultural strength and vibrancy of our great nation. Which is why I believe passionately in the importance of the arrival of Sydney’s newest museum, the Chau Chak Wing Museum at the University of Sydney, which is set to open in November and will host the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere.
Now more than ever it is crucially important that we continue to support the preservation and exhibition of arts and culture, so that we continue to nourish those who may be inspired to become the artistic innovators and history makers a post-COVID world will need.
The decision to fund this project was very easy for me. I have long been an advocate for improving the education of future generations and ensuring opportunities for our children and grandchildren. Working with the University of Sydney, in conjunction with my previous work with the University of Technology in Sydney, are some of my proudest and most important achievements.
It is my hope that through my $15 million donation the Chau Chak Wing Museum will enrich Sydney’s cultural landscape and will be a valuable learning resource for students across the university and beyond, who will have the opportunity to incorporate first-hand study of the collection into their learning. It will also contribute to the economy, adding 10.2 full-time new positions and attracting more than 200K visitors (post-COVID) who are likely to visit other local businesses in the area, including a new café at the museum.
The museum will open with 18 exhibitions held over five levels, bringing the University of Sydney’s Nicholson, Macleay and Art collections all under one roof. Entry to the museum will be free.
As well as housing the largest collection of antiquities in the southern hemisphere, the museum will host the Macleay collections, which includes some of Australia’s most significant natural history objects The University Art Collection itself comprises more than 8,000 historical and contemporary works spanning over a millennium viewable over 2,000 square metres of exhibitions space.
The Chau Chak Wing Museum will allow 3% of the collections to go on show at any given time, tripling previous exhibition space and bringing to light never before seen pieces
As we emerge from this pandemic, the value of individual philanthropic contribution will be pivotal in supporting the survival of the arts and cultural industries. This is shown by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, indicating that only 47% of arts and recreation businesses remain trading. The lowest numbers of any industry.
These severe impacts indicate the importance of support the arts and culture in these challenging times. It is my sincere hope that the Chau Chak Wing Museum not only directly benefits Sydney’s cultural landscape and emerging generations who seek knowledge, but also indirectly encourages others to contribute meaningfully to the enrichment of Australia’s arts and culture.
Dr Chau Chak Wing, the Chinese-Australian businessman and philanthropist. Visit the Chau Chak Wing Foundation website to find out more about his philanthropy.