John Wilson & Peter Lin: Nothing Gratuitous - Art Collector

Issue 46, October - December 2008

For caterers John Wilson and Peter Lin, good food and good art have two things in common: simplicity and subtlety. In business and in life, their approach is all about careful selection, writes Courtney Kidd.

JohnandPeter is a name synonymous with stylish sumptuous catering. Their website features a banquet table resplendent with fine produce fresh from the day’s hunt. It resembles a 17th century still life – Caravaggio or Rubens – though feels contemporary, photographic in its digital registration. It hints at the other arm of their partnership and passion – art collecting, most particularly photography.

John Wilson and Peter Lin’s first purchase was a pair of photographs by Vanila Netto from the former Sherman Galleries in Sydney. They both liked the simplicity of the imagery, elegant laser-sharp snaps of a Swiss Air sick bag and a cube of flattened cardboard boxes. Indeed, there is an element of the sexy red herring in all their purchases. Lin is quick to point out though that occasionally a painting or sculpture works its way into their lives – hence the Lindy Lee, Michael Lindemann and Peter Atkins acquisitions – “we’re not consciously prescriptive with purchases its just that the digital/video medium brings together performative and image making elements. They’re more difficult mediums for artists to get right. They don’t take up a lot of space either.”

Wilson and Lin’s apartment in inner city Sydney starts at the front door with a Daniel Crooks video. It’s the invitation to what lies ahead – there’s plenty – though the aesthetic is pared back, far from cluttered. A light box by Shaun Gladwell illuminates a dining table surrounded by Thornet art nouveau style chairs. The mood feels Parisienne, international, with photographs by Peter Volich, Tracey Moffatt, and Elena Vlassova on surrounding walls. It is art with an edge, typified in the latter photograph purchased from Sullivan+Strumpf. It’s made up of disengaged shoppers moving trolleys in an amorphous super real space.

There is an aesthetic and conceptual coherence to the collection. Initially this wasn’t intended but the works they were naturally attracted to seem to sit comfortably within this ambit. A recent purchase by Paul Knight continues the lineage. Knight plays with the notion of the global landscape where the minutiae of everyday life and the changing face of global living combust in aesthetic ways; the image is of a man attempting auto-fellatio.

“Collecting art and working with food are a way of us making sense of the world,” says Lin, “of bringing a pleasure to those we come in contact with and sharing this pleasure.”

“The Knight is one of our favourites. It works as a metaphor for the way we live in the inner city though its jostling space for number one with our Daniel Crooks who was in the Basil Sellers Art Prize recently.”
Lin trained in art and design and also works as an art consultant. He is quite particular about the ways objects and images are placed in an individual’s environment.

“Simplicity and subtlety are some of the shared qualities that John and I look for both in art and food. We serve food and buy art appropriate to available space, our sense of beauty, and the seasons.”
Wilson emerges from the study where photographs from New Zealand artists Laurence Aberhart and Daniel Maloy compete with BAS statements and computers: “There’s a natural thrill that comes with the transaction of beautiful flavours and images. There should be a reason for everything present on a table, nothing gratuitous, each maintaining its own integrity, and that is the same with our art.”

Everyone knows that good collections take time. Both Wilson and Lin acknowledge it took a while to find their feet, to clarify the collection’s focus. “Of course we buy what we love,” says Lin, “mostly from galleries, sometimes from the artists. We’re regular visitors to Stills, the Australian Centre for Photography, Neon Parc. By many collector’s standards we don’t have a lot of works; we’re committed to buying with care.”

Asked about their ideal collection if the world were their oyster: “We’d have Thomas Ruff, Andrea Gursky, Wolfgang Tillman, Jeff Koons, Matthys Gerber, Pierre et Gilles, Ah Xian…”

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