Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 24 Autumn 2010 Contents 198 INSITE AUTUMN
Has Janet Holmes a Court remained an art
enthusiast or morphed into a business-
focused gallery owner after 10 years at the
helm of her East Perth gallery? She says the
former. And, talking with her to celebrate the anniversary,
we're inclined to agree. Considering it makes no money,
her high-profile corporate side would surely have sacked
herself by now if she were in it for the latter.
The recent collection of works that celebrates the
gallery's anniversary -- TEN: Acquisitions from 2000-2010
-- is testament to her love and curiosity of art. There's her
passion for Indigenous art in 12 of the 40 exhibited works;
at the opening, she stated with a laugh that a multi-media
piece (Flag by Chinese artist Yang Longai, pictured opposite,
bottom left) was bought because, "I am not sure what the
men are doing, but I like it"; and there were others that
have been earmarked for her grandchildren (Therese
Howard's Waltzing Maurizio is one). Together, they bring
a personal edge to the show.
"I am a total enthusiast. The gallery is a gift to people
-- it doesn't make any money. It is about sharing the art
with the people of Western Australia," says Janet. "I always
had in mind that there would be a gallery one day, so I
didn't collect thinking, 'Will this fit in my house?' I think,
'What does this painting mean'; 'What could this artwork
be hung with in an exhibition?' "
It's a lot to think about considering the Holmes a
Court collection numbers 4000 registered works, which
have been bought during the past 40 years. And it's a lot
of wall space by anyone's standards, but works are shared
between the East Perth gallery, Vasse Felix, her homes
and a storage facility. Others are sometimes on loan to
galleries throughout the world.
The art-collecting enthusiast in Janet doesn't appear
to be waning, either. "We visit galleries; I like fossicking
around storerooms. And when people know you collect,
you get endless letters in the mailbox showing works. It is
very exciting when you find a work that resonates with you
and resonates within the collection."
Indigenous works par ticularly resonate with Janet, who
has "a compassion for the Aboriginal people and their plight".
"I am very aware that particularly the work we did in the
early days, when hardly anyone was collecting indigenous
artists, did help communities. I think there is a lot of
conversation now about buying Indigenous art ethically,
HOLMES A COURT
As the Holmes a Court Gallery
celebrates its first decade and prepares
for its next in a new location, we speak
with Janet Holmes a Court on the
inspiration behind the works.
which is something we have tried to do by buying through
reputable agents, but there have been some shonky operators
who have taken advantage of the worldwide interest.
"We have had experiences of people popping $20 across a
fence to an Aboriginal community in return for art, which turns
up in Sydney or Melbourne galleries at a much higher price.
There is a lot of that and it is a sad thing that has happened
because of the commodification of Aboriginal art."
She names Aboriginal Emily Kame Kngwarreye as the
artist behind one of the works in her collection that she can't
live without. "I am deeply commit ted to Emily because she
is one of the great 20th-century contemporary artists. She
stands out as being up there in my view with Jackson Pollack.
She is an astonishing contemporary artist, whether you
think of her as an Aboriginal artist or an artist."
Emily's Alhalkere Country is one painting Janet won't put
into storage. "I like works that you can return to time and time
again. I am looking at Emily now. When it went to Japan (for
an exhibition), I left its 10 screws in the wall. I said, 'It is coming
straight back', because I want to live with it for the rest of my
life. I love being with it. When I look at it, I see something new."
And that is Janet's art-collecting tip: always buy some-
thing you can see something new in every day, plus, as
artist/friend Brian McKay puts it, choose a work that "moves
you in a way that you can't explain". "That is very much the
instant reaction I get," says Janet. "Then other tangential
thoughts come into my head: what is the artist trying to say,
are they trying to say anything, does it matter, do I like it, will
it fit with other things in the collection? Also, I think about
whether I am going to enjoy the painting for a long time."
Image: Frances Andrijich
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