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IMA Business Innovation


The Institute of Modern Art (IMA) is fostering a future generation of art collectors and philanthropists through a novel approach to fundraising. Artists are at the heart of this project that encompasses commissioned limited-edition artworks, an annual gala and online auction, and a bespoke online store that combines these offerings. Proceeds from these initiatives support the commissioning of new artworks for the IMA’s gallery program.

The IMA has been a leader in contemporary art in Queensland for 40 years. It presents exhibitions of new works by Australian and international artists at pivotal points in their practice in its gallery spaces at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Fortitude Valley.

In November 2015, IMA received support under the Arts Business Innovation Fund (ABIF) through a combined grant/loan over three years for this new business and fundraising initiative.


IMA’s innovative approach involved adopting a new business model to develop new revenue streams. This was achieved through a new approach to online fundraising and an expansion of its program of specially commissioned artists’ editions available online and through the IMA’s onsite shop.

The initiative creates an accessible point of entry for new and established art collectors to acquire contemporary art and through it IMA has already placed 30 artworks in collections, and connected with hundreds of patrons with which it had no prior relationship.


IMA will implement its ABIF initiative over three years, 2016 to 2018.


Institute of Modern Art, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art, Fortitude Valley

IMA 2016 Gala. Photograph by Jeff Anderson.

Key stats

The IMA's business innovation in 2016:

  • Generated over $73,000 in its first year
  • Sold 30 artworks, including commissioned limited-edition pieces
  • Recruited 11 sponsors
  • Sold-out a gala event with nearly 200 attendees

Arts Queensland contribution

$100,000 allocated from the Arts Business Innovation Fund (ABIF)* made up of $50,000 funding (Arts Queensland) and a $50,000 zero interest loan (Tim Fairfax Family Foundation), over three years 2016-2018.


  • Greater public awareness of IMA’s work with increased connection with audiences, new and potential donors and members has been achieved.
  • In 2016, increased income flowed through from the annual gala and the related auction, new donors were secured and new buyer markets were reached using online bidding technologies.
  • The collaboration with New York-based art auction platform Paddle8 delivered a seamless silent auction at IMA's annual Gala, reaching bidders locally and across the globe. This was the first Australian event to take place with Paddle 8.
  • A nationally-recognised model for fundraising has been created in mid-sized contemporary art spaces. Since launching the Gala event, IMA has provided advice to two national peer galleries, who have since established similar events, and had inquiries from other Brisbane arts organisations wanting to establish their own event-based fundraising initiatives.

Learnings and reflections

The IMA was advised that event-based fundraising was risky and very rarely profitable. They therefore looked to successful international models and sought advice from New York gallery Art in General, to ensure they moved forward with a proven approach:

Our annual Gala and auction have been profitable each time we have conducted them. Beyond this, we have achieved increased profits through establishing new sponsor relationships and recruiting higher-level donors.

The limited editions artwork program has commissioned three artworks to date. One is nearly sold out and the others continue to attract interest. As expected, different artists attract different buyers, so we are committed to approaching a diverse range of artists for this program in future.

The IMA's online store has been crucial for driving interest in this program, but we have observed that onsite sales are stronger.

*ABIF is an initiative of the Queensland Government, through Arts Queensland and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation (TFFF), developed in partnership with a consortium of three organisations – Foresters Community Finance, Positive Solutions and QUT Creative Enterprise Australia. Both the Queensland Government and the TFFF have contributed $500,000 to the Arts Business Innovation Fund.

Contact for further information


Phone: +617 3252 5750