HawkesburyOne : The evolution of our collecting

Joining Hawkesbury One required quite a leap of faith, when long time friends asked if I was interested in joining their new group investing $2000 per year for a period of 10 years and collecting art which reflected the first 10 years of the new century. Saying yes meant hoping the group, most of whom I had never met, would all get along together and all work towards this goal.

Our members come from a variety of backgrounds: Journalism and policy making, law and finance, medical and many more, some were confident and assertive in their pursuit of art; others preferred a more cautious and reflective approach whilst some members were happy to follow the group consensus.

Hawkesbury One usually met at one of the members houses for a Sunday lunch once every four months. During this lunch amongst good food, wine and general conversation a formal meeting was held, chaired by one of the members and minutes were taken.

Initially whilst finding our feet, discussions centred around new and emerging artists, indeed what was an emerging artist, how we would transport the art, insurances, and rotation rosters. These topics and finance remained common as part of nearly every meeting held.

Members would visit galleries, attend events, talk to gallery owners and scour art magazines to find artists they considered met our criteria. If during our meetings an artist was considered for further investigation, a small sub-group usually of 2-3 people was nominated to pursue works by the artist. A budget was given to the subgroup at the meeting so they had a range of prices to consider. After talking to gallery owners, viewing works and exhibitions, the sub-group came back to the group with suggested works.

Emailing images, on line discussions and correspondence through our webpage format all helped the group reach a decision without having to meet. One clear focus of Hawkesbury One has been to purchase works that are key pieces by the artist, works that are truly worthy of collecting and will hold their value. If this aim could not be met we would rather bypass the work. This process on some occasions would take six to twelve months depending on whether key works were available.

A majority vote allowed the work to be purchased. Having the same treasurer for the 10 years made record keeping and payments to galleries much easier.

The collection in some ways has been limited to a domestic size and scale. Gallery size works while discussed were often excluded. Although artworks rotate through our houses every six months we have still tried to be ambitious in the range of works collected. Long and intense discussions were held over whether photography, digital and video art and sculpture were appropriate for transportation, display and storage, but as you can see we managed to purchase the range. Limiting the collection to one or two media forms would not have truly reflected the art of the last 10 years.

Fluctuations in the art market, our financial position, agreement and confidence in a decision being made all meant adopting a changing and flexible approach to the purchasing of our art.

In 2008 after years of self direction, perhaps from exhaustion, we pursued a different approach to collecting. For a period of 12 months we employed an external consultant to investigate emerging artists on our behalf. Being immersed in the new art scene with access to University graduates and young committed artists the consultant provided us with a quarterly assessment of the art scene and committed artists possibly worth collecting.

Another change in approach saw the group keen not to just purchase, but commission our last work. With many members having ties to Newcastle and The Hunter three stainless steel cut-out sculptures all involving an aspect of the Hunter were commissioned. The first work being completed late last year while the chosen artist was resident at the ‘Lockup’, It was made in collaboration with Newcastle University students and involved local companies in its manufacture. The concept of a commission put forward by one of our members would not have been considered several years ago, this rewarding process has been only possible from gained confidence working together as Hawkesbury One.

My leap of faith made ten years ago has now proven to be one my most rewarding decisions. It has provided me with an opportunity to find, discuss, purchase and enjoy works of art I would not have done on my own. Hawkesbury One has been for me the vehicle to have made many new friends, to have interesting and challenging conversations about art, and to have learned a great deal in the pursuit of art for our collection.

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