Pub­lic works

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Visual Arts - Bron­wyn Wat­son

Khai Liew, de­signer, Bruce Nuske, ce­ramist, Bruce [cab­i­net on stand]. From the Col­lec+tors se­ries, 2010. Col­lec­tion Art Gallery of South Aus­tralia. Gift to the Col­lec+tors Ap­peal through the Art Gallery of South Aus­tralia Foun­da­tion, 2012. On dis­play, AGSA, Ade­laide. In early 1972, Khai Liew was a strug­gling univer­sity eco­nom­ics stu­dent in Ade­laide and, like many stu­dents, he needed to fur­nish his shared rental house. He be­gan fre­quent­ing sec­ond­hand fur­ni­ture shops, but what be­gan as a ne­ces­sity turned into a con­sum­ing pas­sion.

He be­gan to buy, col­lect and con­serve di­lap­i­dated colo­nial fur­ni­ture. Once re­stored, the fur­ni­ture was sold in a shop he had es­tab­lished. He found this ven­ture in­fin­itely more in­ter­est­ing than his pre­vi­ous job work­ing late nights as a waiter to pay for univer­sity.

As it turns out, one of his ear­li­est cus­tomers was Ron Rad­ford, who had ar­rived in Ade­laide in 1980 as cu­ra­tor of Aus­tralian paint­ing at the Art Gallery of South Aus­tralia. About 10 years later Rad­ford be­came the gallery’s direc­tor, and in 1995 he took a “leap of faith”.

Though Liew was not a de­signer, Rad­ford com­mis­sioned him to de­sign the new fur­ni­ture for the gallery’s ex­ten­sions.

As Peter Ward says in his book Khai Liew, Rad­ford was so con­fi­dent of Liew’s abil­ity to de­sign that he was pre­pared to put his judg­ment to this crit­i­cal test.

Rad­ford’s be­lief was the be­gin­ning of Liew’s ca­reer as a de­signer. Since then, Liew has taken on high-pro­file com­mis­sions such as the bed­room fur­ni­ture for Syd­ney’s Admiralty House, the gover­nor-gen­eral’s res­i­dence, and a pri­vate com­mis­sion of de­sign­ing all the fur­ni­ture, in­clud­ing rugs and lamps, for the Syd­ney home of art col­lec­tor Judith Neil­son. He is also one of the artists in the Ade­laide Bi­en­nial (un­til June 3) and one of the de­sign team short­listed for Ade­laide Con­tem­po­rary, the new art gallery planned for North Ter­race.

Amer­i­can white oak, por­cel­la­neous stoneware, graf­fito dec­o­ra­tion 130cm x 212cm x 50cm

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