ART HOUSE

From their home in a corner of in­ner Syd­ney, two art afi­ciona­dos lov­ingly cu­rate a wall-to-wall selec­tion of eclec­tic works.

VOGUE Living Australia - - CONTENTS - By Freya Her­ring Pho­tographed by Hugh Ste­wart

From their home in in­ner Syd­ney, two art afi­ciona­dos lov­ingly cu­rate a wall-to-wall selec­tion of eclec­tic works

There is some­thing prob­lem­atic about buy­ing art for one’s own home — and it is that you, and those around you, are the only peo­ple who get to ex­pe­ri­ence that art­work for as long as you have it. There are mas­ter­ful works by Pi­casso, Kahlo and Ba­con holed up in peo­ple’s liv­ing rooms all over the world. For the rest of us, it’s a loss. That was never go­ing to be an is­sue for Gor­don Elliott and Michael Eyes. They’ve been col­lect­ing fine art, from across a range of dis­ci­plines, for a decade-and-ahalf. To­day, they have some 326 works in their three-bed­room ter­race house in Syd­ney’s Ersk­ineville.

Paintings and sculp­tures dec­o­rate ev­ery wall and crevice, and fea­ture in both their front and back gar­dens. A neon piece by Mel­bourne artist Adam Stone even adorns the ceil­ing. They don’t keep it to them­selves, ei­ther — their home is open to the pub­lic by ap­point­ment, and they will even throw in a glass of cham­pagne while you’re hav­ing a gan­der. “We want to share our col­lec­tion,” says Elliott, “and to en­cour­age other peo­ple to ac­tu­ally look at art, and re­alise that they can have lots of it in their own home if they want.”

Nei­ther he nor Eyes is wealthy — Elliott is a dance teacher and Eyes runs an in­de­pen­dent book­shop in Wool­lahra. They pay off art­works slowly, rather than put all the money up­front. “Once you are known by the gal­leries, you can nor­mally make ar­range­ments with them to pay off works,” says Elliott. As soon as you ap­proach their house, a sculp­ture by New Zealand’s Terry Stringer greets you, a bronze wing raised in wel­come. The screen door is a com­mis­sioned work by Syd­ney’s Michael Snape. Pri­mal, an­i­mal­is­tic sculp­tures by fel­low lo­cal Todd Fuller sit on fur­nish­ings be­low gi­ant paintings by artists as di­verse as Span­ish-based Aus­tralian artist Peter Churcher and New Zealand’s Jess John­son. There is video art; the foot­stool is a sculp­ture; other sculp­tures by Syd­ney’s Alex Se­ton dot the premises. There are also works by Charles Black­man, Sid­ney Nolan, Jef­frey Smart, James Gleeson and Ju­lian Meagher. In the gar­den, a gi­ant steel piece by New Zealand sculp­tor Gre­gor Kre­gar over­looks the liv­ing area, while, up­stairs in the spare bed­room, paintings by South­ern High­lands-based Clara Adolphs over­look a male nude bed­spread picked up from South African artist Brooke Schafer when Elliott and Eyes were in Pre­to­ria. This art-packed house is rem­i­nis­cent of the Paris Sa­lon. “Peo­ple are over­whelmed by the amount and di­ver­sity,” says Elliott. “And they seem re­ally ap­pre­cia­tive that we’ve opened our house up and in­vited them in,” adds Eyes. With no chil­dren, the cou­ple are in the throes of plan­ning the fu­ture of their col­lec­tion. “By the time we kick the bucket, we want to set up a foun­da­tion where we’ll pick 10 works and give them to ei­ther a re­gional gallery or an in­sti­tu­tion as The Elliott Eyes Col­lec­tion,” says Elliott. Every­thing else will be sold, and 70 per cent of the an­nual in­ter­est will be gifted to an Aus­tralian or Kiwi artist each year, who will pro­duce one work to fur­ther the col­lec­tion. “And they could use the money for what­ever they want,” he notes.

Un­til then, the cou­ple will con­tinue to wel­come peo­ple into their home, to in­spire and drive col­lect­ing. “Invit­ing peo­ple has never been a prob­lem,” says Eyes. “The peo­ple we’ve met — col­lec­tors and peo­ple who love art — it’s been won­der­ful.”

Gor­don Elliott (left) and Michael Eyes in the up­stairs hall­way of their Syd­ney ter­race. Eyes holds Rick Amor’s Boy on a Bathing Box paint­ing. The work above the mir­ror is by John Coburn. All other pieces are by James Gleeson. De­tails, last pages.

clock­wise from above: Mark Whalen’s Con­straints; Tan­maya Bing­ham’s 3 LSFS. Cherry Hood’s Tuyen (par­tially seen); var­i­ous works by Clara Adolphs. clock­wise from left: ce­ram­ics by Bron­wynne Cor­nish and Nell (on stool); Fabergé plate by Rosen­thal. Pinkie...

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