Collector’s Corner presents a series of conversations with avid art collectors, searching for the rich stories and ideas that are woven into their incredible (and enviable!) collections. The collectors we talk with show a boundless support of contemporary art, with their ever-growing art collections entwined with the story and artists of Arts Project Australia.
To begin our conversations on collecting culture we caught up with Clive Scott, Manager of Melbourne’s Sofitel Hotel, whose love of collecting art has spanned a lifetime, beginning as a small boy who shocked his mother with his first art purchase – a Norman Lindsey etching of a nude woman – through to recently collecting a Chris Mason work from Arts Project Australia, which even he’s deemed a little “shocking”.
For Clive, his life-long commitment to collecting art stems from the narratives and moments that art captures for us…
When I was little I lived overseas with my parents in tropical countries like Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Museums and art galleries were air conditioned, so I would visit with my parents and spend hours looking at artifacts and art. Whether it was the local Indigenous artwork, or a very large colonial landscape, the experience was an adventure for a young boy. They most definitely got me turned on to art at a young age.
How would you describe your approach to collecting art? Or, even better, what kind of collector are you?
I’m definitely an eclectic collector and only have art that I like. Collecting for me has never been for investment. I’ve lived in various countries in the world and have art from all of them. If at the time I thought it was beautiful, then I would add it to the collection. Also if I met the artist I’m more likely to have their art. I even have a Benjamin Landara water colour which I bought while he sat under a gum tree in the desert and painted it – the water colour was still wet when I purchased it.
What do you love about collecting art and what compels you to collect and keep collecting?
In many ways I have always been a ‘hoarder’ and I think my collecting is partly hording and partly keeping for memories. I can tell you stories about a lot of the art – how I came to own the pieces, who had them before me, where I purchased them, or why I liked them at the time. I think that collecting art is about collecting the stories as much as the art itself. The art becomes part of your family, part of your personal history.
Generally speaking, which contemporary artist do you most admire and why?
At Sofitel we have an Artist in Residence Program and all of the artists who’ve participated have been amazing. But two that have really shined with their ability level are Gosia Wlodarczak and her drawings, and Robyn Stacey with her photography. I’ve been lucky enough to see both of these artists create; to watch the thinking, the process and the development they go through when making their work. Then to further see the joy they have in creating and making, and the joy they get when people see the finished works. Gosia did a project at the hotel called Frost Drawings, where she drew for ten days on the windows of the hotel lobby, and Robyn did a series of work called Camera Obscura in the hotel rooms. Two great projects!
Can you describe your best art experience for us?
I was very young when I purchased my first piece of art. I told my Mum that I wanted to buy a piece in a gallery and she said okay and if that’s what I wanted to do, then go ahead (my grandmother had given me some money for the purchase). It happened to be a Norman Lindsey etching, which at first was okay with Mum, until she saw it was a drawing of a naked lady! I’m not sure she thought it was appropriate that a boy my age should be buying nude etchings!
Now tell us about your first encounter with Arts Project – when did you first hear about us, and when did you first encounter artwork by our artists?
I was lucky enough to judge Arts Project Australia one year in the Melbourne Awards. In those days we would visit the entries and it was eye-opening to visit the Northcote studio and gallery and to see what a fabulous job everyone does.
Describe the artworks you have collected from Arts Project. Is there a pride of place where they sit or hang – tell us about it?
First of all there’s Chris Mason and his wonderful painting of a nude (and slightly overweight) lady – it’s an amazing painting which is both beautiful and shocking. I’ve found it leaves many viewers not willing to say if they like it or they don’t. I first saw the painting at the Melbourne Art Fair and ‘argued’ with Sue Roff, Director of Arts Project Australia, about the fact that she should hang it up front as it would create ‘interest’! I’m glad now she didn’t, as I ended up purchasing the work as I found it a fascinating piece of art. There’s also Alan Constable and his ceramic cameras. The work shows his fascination with old cameras, which in itself is fascinating when he is legally blind. I remember one particular opening night where I loved seeing Alan standing very proudly with his work during Melbourne Now at the National Gallery of Victoria – work which the gallery now have in their collection. Finally Dionne Canzano‘s crayon work. This work is subtle in its majesty. The bird is depicted as if not there; it’s profound in its artistry. I’ve never met Dionne, so another wonderful experience is in store for me when I do meet her. I was passing the gallery one Saturday and went in and just had to have this work.
What is it you like about being a collector and friend of Arts Project?
My thinking is that I’m collecting art – not that I’m collecting art from Arts Project Australia. I’m interested in the work and how I feel about it. For example when I saw the ceramic camera by Alan Constable I was excited. It’s beautiful as much for its imperfections as for its colour and finish. When I met Alan I was even more excited and had numerous questions as to how he could create what he did – something so perfect with his lack of sight.
If you were to purchase another Arts Project artwork right now, which artist would you look at and why?
I like the drawings and gouache works of Bobby Kyriakopoulos. It’s simple but very fresh and alive. The work says something to you when you stand in front of it; it tells a story.
What pearls of wisdom would you give a first-time collector?
Collect what you like, not what you think is a good buy. If someone says “you have to have it”, it’s not a reason to buy it. Collecting isn’t about price. Buy what you can afford and you can still have a great collection. Work from Arts Project Australia isn’t very expensive and you could easily specialise in an artist or collect a range of work from many artists to start – or add to – your collection. But remember; he who hesitates is lost. If you don’t buy it, when you go back the next day it won’t be there.
This is Arts Project Australia’s first edition of Collector’s Corner. Stay tuned for further editions and feel free to gander through bigger art collections, as well as find out more about Arts Project Australia’s artists and art.