Private passions into the spotlight

A COLLECTION of works on display at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery reveals the private passions of local art collectors.

Personal + Particular: Private collection and contemporary art in Perth is a collection of paintings, sculpture and works on paper drawn from 17 private collections in Perth.

Gallery director and exhibition curator John Barrett-Lennard said the process of putting the collection together had unearthed many treasures.

“It was great to see the passion with which people have been collecting contemporary and modern art here,” he said.

“I’d become fascinated early in the year, when working on the Committed to the present: 50 years of the UWA art collection, with the influence on private collections.

“It struck me that there must be great art out there that people just weren’t aware of – and collectors who were quietly and intensely passionate about.”

Mr Barrett-Lennard said he always believed another level of collecting existed in Perth aside from the major collections such as the Stokes and Heytesbury collections.

“I asked around various people I knew and started noting when other exhibitions were on and saying, ‘ok so that lives in WA’,” he said. “Once there had been some introduction, people were very receptive to the idea.

“It involved walking through their homes and looking at everything.”

Mr Barrett-Lennard said he took time to talk to each individual collector during this research and development phase of the exhibition.

“I probably looked at about 1,000 objects, he said.

“Some people had a house with 100 or 200 art works in it others had about a dozen.”

In the process of choosing the 76 works that feature in the exhibition Mr Barrett-Lennard was focused on developing a diverse collection rather than just a showcase of the finest examples of work from local collectors.

“I actually found that some of the works in the smaller collections were still knock outs,” he said. “There was often a kind of biographical element to the collections.”

Part of the appeal of this exhibition is that it gives the audience an insight into the kind of works individual collectors are acquiring.

This almost voyeuristic element personalises the collection for the audience.

“I think it’s interesting to see what other people have; people are curious about what people have collected and I’d like to encourage that.

“As a public gallery I also consider that this kind of activity can boost our audience.”

The exhibition is closely focused on the past two decades of Australian art with Western Australian artists forming an important part of the collection.

“Three works, bought by their owner in the mid 1980s by Mike Parr, Imants Tillers and Ken Unsworth, directly reflect their inclusion in a major Australian exhibition in New York in 1984,” Mr Barrett-Lennard said.

“They were also a challenging and quite perceptive acquisition for a Western Australian collector at the time.

“Private collections have enormous influence – both as they reflect personal taste and interests and through the collectors’ dialogue with and support of individual artists.”

The exhibition is on display until December 5 at the Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, The University of Western Australia.

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