He once spent $9 million buying the guitar of late grunge superstar Kurt Cobain, with plans to use it to raise money for the music industry.
Now Sydney philanthropist Peter Freedman has given the Sydney Festival $5 million – the largest single donation from an individual in the event’s history.
“You’ve got to give, I was taught that,” Mr Freedman said.
“To who much is given, much is expected, so that is what I want to do.”
While the arts industry has been crushed by COVID-19, Mr Freedman’s microphones business has boomed, as people embraced podcasting and music making from home studios in quarantine.
With artists loudly calling for more government funding, Sydney Festival director Wesley Enoch said philanthropy has been a lifeline this year.
“What I’ve loved in the last 12 months is to watch philanthropists really step up. We’ve seen people double their philanthropic gift,” he said.
Mr Freedman said he would like to see philanthropy for the arts become a bigger part of the culture in Australia.
“Those who have the money and haven’t thought of it, please do something,” he said.
“No matter how big or small, every dollar, every $500,000 – it’s all going to help.”
Incoming festival director Olivia Ansel said the money would allow her to commission major new works and contribute to the livelihoods of talented Australian artists.
But she warned private money was not a substitute for continued public funding.
“We certainly don’t want any less government funding in the arts, we would absolutely love more – we need more,” Ms Ansel said.
“The industry was decimated … it will take years to recover.”
The federal government pledged $250 million worth of grants and loans under a COVID-19 recovery package to Australia’s arts sector in June.
Creative industries called for more support after coronavirus shut down venues and productions and led to widespread job losses, with many workers ineligible for the JobKeeper wage subsidy.