Josephine Ridge: A disciplined eye - Art Collector

Issue 47, January - March 2009

Not every collector is game enough to buy a work so big it has to be brought in with a crane, but Josephine Ridge is no stranger to making things happen writes Courtney Kidd.

Josephine Ridge moves mountains, that’s metaphorically speaking, though as General Manager for the Festival of Sydney she has had to make some extraordinary things happen. She does this too with her private art collection, organising a street closure so that a crane could manoeuvre a huge Peter Booth landscape into her house. The museum quality painting is a grand statement, works as a paradox to the more discreet timbre of what Jason Smith, Director and CEO of Heide Museum of Modern Art, describes as a “small finely tuned collection of immense quality, indicative of the striking discipline of this collector’s eye.”

Ridge’s parents had been keen collectors. “My most precious painting is a Jeffrey Smart that they bought in 1965…having that painting come to me was the catalyst for me to start my own collection.” Ridge does not pursue any particular style or period, though can obsessively pursue an artist’s work, sometimes over a period of years, in order to get what she is after. Other works just “speak” to her, such as a pair of black and white Rosella Namok works, portraits of the artist’s grandparents, purchased at Niagara Gallery.

Names peppered in Ridge’s 20 strong collection include Rick Amor, Jan Nelson, Boxer Milner, Callum Morton, Destiny Deacon, George Tjungurrayi and TV Moore and she is keen to acquire more video art though has an aversion to watching it on a TV screen and intends acquiring a dedicated screen.

Smith notes that as a collector, Ridge “does not underestimate the importance of the collection’s spatial requirements,” and so curious juxtapositions occur such as the placement of a Stephen Benwell ceramic pot alongside a small Ken Whisson painting, both works’ calligraphic surfaces lifting the eye with their spontanaeity while a Paul Boston painting sits alongside a Gwyn Hanssen Pigott Still Life suite of ceramics, inviting a meditative dialogue.

“It’s all deeply personal,” says Ridge, whose collection, lived with on a daily basis, is something treasured, something from which she derives an immense emotional impact.

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