AES+F: Last Riot and Other Contemporary Works from the Collection of Dr Dick Quan’ opened at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) on 17 April 2014, and runs until 1 June.
Lucy Rees: You showed your collection at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery in 2006 in an exhibition titled ‘HOME GOAL: Diversity in Australian Contemporary Art’ and again in 2012 with ‘AES+F: The Feast of Trimalchio’. What is your relationship with regional galleries and with BRAG in particular?
Dick Quan: I have always had an interest in showing art in regional Australia. It’s easy to show art in big cities but the country is somewhere that doesn’t get access. I have known Richard Perrem, the Director at BRAG, for a while. He approached me. He knew that I would, and I could, so I did.
LR: You are a role model for collectors loaning to public institutions and known for your philanthropy in the arts. Since you started collecting, have you seen others follow suit?
DQ: After my original exhibition in Bathurst (in 2006), the collector Rachel Verghis showed ‘Light Sensitive Material: Works from the Verghis Collection’ in 2009. This featured thirty works around the theme, making her collection accessible to all. It gives people the idea that art doesn’t have to be hidden.
LR: The best collections seem to have a sense of the collector as a person. How important is this role to you?
DQ: I think it’s more important than ever these days. Today a lot of public galleries don’t have the funds to buy work. It’s left up to the collector to see the work and show it.
LR: It’s an interesting premise in itself – the collector’s engagement with the artworks, their sensibilities and responses, which ones were chosen to be acquired.
DQ: Yes, and public galleries are really only a relatively new phenomenon. It was once solely the private collector who showed art. It is only in the last 150 years that public galleries started displaying work. The public can’t afford it anymore so it’s up to collectors to step in.
LR: Do you feel as though it’s a duty?
DQ: No, it’s not a duty. It’s something I enjoy doing. I think life is about sharing. Why have it stored away when you can share it? It’s no good for the artists if their works are unseen.
LR: Is there a conceptual premise for the current exhibition at BRAG?
DQ: The theme is what I call the ‘Pacific-rim aesthetic climate change’. Within the Pacific rim, we are rejecting the aesthetics of Europe and the United States East Coast. We are no longer looking for artistic cues from New York, London or Berlin. It’s a brash change. It is about cross-cultural fertilisation, the aesthetics of overload, consumerism and politics, all in one.
The works on exhibition are ones I enjoy for the artist’s unique vision. I collect the work of collaboratives like AES+F or Eko Nugroho. I have the work of a young New Zealand artist, Matt Couper, who currently lives in Las Vegas. He hasn’t shown in Australia before, so I am giving him a break. He did a great performance for the opening dressed as a monkey, in reference to Pierre Brassau. I have works from China and Japan, including Ken Kagami (who is based in Tokyo but spends a lot of time in Los Angeles). I am trying to establish Australia’s place in it too, to contextualise Australian art in a wider international format. Local artists include Caroline Rothwell, David Griggs and Tony Garifalakis. Tony is from an immigrant background and Carolyn Rothwell was born in New Zealand, lives in Australia and now shows in London. You just don’t get that from a German artist.
David Griggs was born in Sydney but now lives in the Philippines where he sources his images from their religious culture. This is cultural-collision art, and you only get it if you live in these cities. It’s not about good taste, either; it’s a democracy of taste. It’s unlike European work, which is more didactic and shapes the way you are supposed to read it. This work is shaped by our experience. That’s what AES+F are about. That’s Russia. They tell me people love their work in Asia but there is scepticism in the United States.
LR: The new no-border?
DQ: Exactly. I am not interested in the old cities; I am interested in the new cities. Look at the Indonesian agro pop artists. This is as astonishing as when pop hit abstract expressionism. It makes the yBas look so last millennium.
LR: You are well researched with an in-depth knowledge of the artists. Do you work with the curators or is this your own doing?
DQ: I don’t work in the arts. This is my theme. We live in a new democracy for art. In the past you needed to rely on someone to tell you what to buy. You can do it yourself now. You can read about things in five minutes online. It’s a new democracy, a new world.
AES+F: Last Riot and Other Contemporary Works from the Collection of Dr Dick Quan, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, 17 April – 1 June 2014.
This article was published by Art & Australia.