The National Gallery of Victoria has made a splash in the art world, acquiring its most-expensive ever painting -- an Italian Renaissance painting by Correggio -- for $5.2 million. The purchase of Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist was made with the help of a single trustee, Melbourne fund manager Andrew Sisson.
NGV director Dr Gerard Vaughan and Sisson unveiled the early 16th century painting yesterday after the purchase was made at a Sotheby's auction in London last month.
The artwork is the first authentic Correggio (the 'fifth Beatle' to contemporaries Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian and Raphael) to come on the market for half a century: ''It's possible there will never be another," said Vaughn.
Sisson, a rebel fund manager who famously stared down a private equity bid for Qantas a few years ago, is flush with cash at the moment after recently selling his Balanced Equity Management firm to US giant Franklin Templeton.
Sisson has committed to staying with the firm for five years in the deal believed to be worth about $30 million. BRW magazine has estimated his personal wealth to be more than $125 million.
Sisson and Vaughn believe the strong dollar, as well as pressure on bigger galleries in Europe and North America, helped get their bid over the line.
"We were in the right place at the right time with the right budget," said Vaughan.
"You look at the way things move over time, and this is a great opportunity to buy something using our dollar and get a lot of value for it," agreed Sisson.
Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist will go into conservation at the end of this year, before appearing for public viewing in the middle of 2012.
Vaughn is yet to respond to allegations of bullying levelled against the gallery's former head of commerical operatons Andrew O'Brien, as reported in The Age.