Vancouver collector Michael Audain began buying art in the early 1960s, picking up small pieces by local artists such as Bill Bissett and Michael Morris that sold for less than $50.

He has been collecting ever since, buying art just because he liked it, he says in an essay for the exhibit Shore, Forest and Beyond at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

In that essay, he recalls buying a William Kurelek early in his career, striking a deal with the artist to pay $50 a month over a couple of years.

The exhibit, opening Saturday, shows the now priceless private art collection amassed by Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa. Audain had a particular affinity for work from British Columbia.

Audain is one of the biggest art philanthropists in Canada, sponsoring two B.C.art prizes and giving generously to the VAG and other galleries.

His collection now dates back to the 1800s, as he has been buying pieces made by First Nations artists from all the tribes on the coast in an effort to keep them from being sold outside of the country.

There are also contemporary works by internationally renowned Vancouver-based artists Jeff Wall, Rodney Graham, Ian Wallace and others.

Shore, Forest and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection runs Oct. 29 to Jan. 29, 2012 at the VAG.