Chairman of Tarrawarra Museum of Art received AM

Daniel Benjamin Besen. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Dongyun Kwon

The chairman of the local art museum received a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division.

Tarrawarra Museum of Art chairman Daniel Benjamin Besen was honoured on King’s Birthday on Monday 10 June for his significant service to the arts and philanthropy.

Mr Besen said as the significance of the acknowledgement started to sink in, his overwhelming feelings were joy and gratitude.

“I grew up surrounded by art, artists, galleries and exhibitions. For me, the arts are part of my DNA,” he said.

“In my 20s, my Saturday afternoons were spent gallery hopping, from grand spaces to gritty basements, always searching for new ideas and new experiences and learning.”

Pinacotheca, Melbourne was one of the galleries that enabled his love for art to bloom.

“One of my seminal experiences was in the Pinacotheca gallery. Bruce Pollard was the Director. It was the first time I went to an exhibition by Rosalie Gascoigne,” Mr Besen said.

“Bruce invited me to come up really close to the artwork. It was an assemblage of Tarax boxes.

“Bruce asked me what I saw and I replied “beautiful timber boxes”. Bruce could be pretty gruff and he replied, “No, what you are looking at is the landscape of Australia”. What an inspiration!”

Mr Besen is the son of the founder of TarraWarra Estate, the late Marc Besen.

His passion for art led him to be the chairman of the Tarrawarra Museum of Art.

He said when his father asked him to chair the TarraWarra Museum of Art, he felt an enormous sense of gratitude and pride, holding the legacy of the extraordinary museum for his parents into the future.

“I have been involved since its inception and watched with wonder and awe as the community of friends, visitors, curators, artists, exhibitions and installations has grown and evolved,” Mr Besen said.

“I would like to express my deep admiration, respect and appreciation to the two directors of TarraWarra Museum, the inaugural director Maudie Palmer and the current director Victoria Lynn.

“Maudie and Victoria have created programs which have built so harmoniously on the foundation of the museum, the gift of my parents’ extraordinary collection. The museum is truly inspiring, a place where art, place and ideas flourish.”

Other than art, Mr Besen has been walking on a long journey in philanthropy.

His philanthropic journey started many years ago.

Mr Besen said he would like to highlight one part of his journey regarding the Roger Kemp prize.

“I was asked by the dean of Art at Swinburne (later VCA), Vic Majzner, to give a prize to a third-year student. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity, through the naming of the prize, to honour someone meaningful to the school. Vic suggested Roger Kemp,” he said.

“For many years now the Roger Kemp Prize has helped talented artists leaving their tertiary studies to lease studios, travel to develop their arts practice and take up residencies throughout the world.

“I have received from the recipients the most wonderful letters of thanks, artworks as gifts and seen many establish their art practice. The Roger Kemp Prize is a small offering but it’s clear that the impact of such an acknowledgment at a seminal period in an artist’s life can be very profound.”