Menzies Art Brands

The Collectors


In 2005, as the Australian art market approached its zenith, a group of eight collectors engaged Bill Nuttall, founding owner of Melbournes epochal Niagara Galleries and arguably the most popular and well respected industry figure in Australasian circles, to form a collection of contemporary Australian art which they would share possession and ownership of over the ensuing decade. The group, eponymously self-titled as The Collectors, afforded Bill a strict annual budget but otherwise carte blanche to source the best available works by this countrys emerging, mid-career and senior contemporary practitioners.

The following seventy-three  lots bear testament to Nuttalls keen eye, understated flair and industry acumen. Any art collecting journey is characterised by an individuals ability to seize (or decline) opportunities as they present and Bills tireless efforts and ubiquitous presence at studios, exhibitions and art fairs both locally and internationally has granted this unique group access to works which they would otherwise have been deprived.  Included are best-of-type paintings by two of this countrys most heavily over-subscribed artists, Del Kathryn Barton and Daniel Boyd, their acquisition only made possible by Nuttall being in the right place at the right time You cant be fleet of foot and have consultation.  Bill credits The Collectors for empowering him to make unilateral buying decisions on their behalf, but coyly adds, All good company art collections are put together when a benevolent dictator is in charge. Notwithstanding this, Bill has pursued quality without fear or favour as evidenced by the diverse range of galleries, dealers and art centres he patronised. It was only natural that Nuttalls own stable of artists, which he has spent thirty-eight years cultivating at Niagara, would be represented with aplomb. This now affords a fresh generation of collectors the opportunity to own top class paintings by Rick Amor, John Kelly, Euan Macleod, Noel McKenna, Paul Boston, Gunter Christman, Richard Larter, Angela Brennan, Song Ling, Bradd Westmoreland and sculpture by Neil Taylor and Robert Bridgewater.  
The collection traverses a variety of media but largely remains true to the Australian tradition of figurative, narrative art. It spans the sublime (iPhone, Rick Amors 21st century ode to Edward Hopper) to the ridiculous (Simon Yatess Possum Bike) and every waypoint in-between.

Like a proud parent contemplating his brood, Bill is reluctant to nominate a favourite work amongst the group in spite of my urgings. For him, and The Collectors, this has been an exercise in communal ownership pleasure quite an achievement when one considers how individual a pursuit art collecting tends to be. So I phrase the question differently: Is there one piece in the collection which he would recommend to an emerging collector above all others?

After careful deliberation Bill nominates two: lot 135, an impossibly intricate Tim Sterling sculpture comprised solely of paper clips and cable ties; and lot 134, a typically labyrinthine construction from Niagaras own Neil Taylor. I wonder if these choices are metaphors for Nuttalls almost four decades of graft in a fickle, fragile industry which has seen many come and go. Its more probable that he just loves the objects

Cameron Menzies
Managing Director & Auctioneer, Southern Region

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