Max and Gabby Germanos: The Best Contenders - Art Collector

Issue 70, October - December 2014

While many private collectors like to seek out the work of emerging artists, Max and Gabby Germanos buy the work of mid-career artists partly because they recognise there’s a need to support them. They talk to Helen McKenzie.

Max and Gabby Germanos, photographed for Art Collector issue 70, October - December 2014. Portrait by Nikki Short.

Max and Gabby Germanos started collecting in the late 1990s while living in a small terrace house in the inner Sydney suburb of Alexandria. Their initial focus was abstract and indigenous art, but that all changed when they discovered McLean Edwards. It would seem that the pair independently had their “McLean moment” – lawyer Gabby was working for law firm Allens when she was enchanted by an Edwards work from the company’s extensive contemporary art collection. Max’s McLean moment happened in a meeting. “I came into a room and there was a painting of a young cricketer and the creature next to him had on a pig’s mask with a medieval collar – I couldn’t take my eyes off the painting, I couldn’t negotiate the deal. I was distracted. Who is it? What is it?”

Today Max, Gabby and their three children live in a spacious home in Sydney’s northern suburbs with 30 works by Edwards. One room is given over entirely and exclusively to the artist’s work. Max, who is head of structuring and client solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML), explains: “McLean’s work for me leads to suggestion and conjecture. I think it is the same for Gabby – she is a McLean fan or else she wouldn’t allow this many paintings in the house! I’m a very busy individual, work is busy – negotiating and structuring multi-million dollar deals some days – and home is busy too. The paintings allow my mind to explore and think about a number of things. I need a work to consume me and it’s not about being pretty, it’s about emotion. One thing I have found with McLean’s works: once you own one, you want another one.”

The family’s collection also includes work from Adam Cullen, Brent Harris, Euan McLeod, Ben Quilty, Neil Frazer and Noel McKenna. Max’s latest buy is a ceramic work by Alan Constable. Gabby says Max “is extremely passionate and talks about art all the time”. With a grin Max says he does not always discuss with Gabby their art purchases. “I must admit I have bought quite a few on my own, there are a lot of presents in the house, birthdays, Mother's Day and wedding anniversaries!”

Max has curated three exhibitions for the BAML program he initiated called The Art of Connecting. The solo shows are hung in the company’s Sydney offices and have featured works by McLean Edwards, Ben Quilty and Joanna Braithwaite. Max says the idea behind the exhibitions was to “bring art to the people I work with; clients, friends and colleagues. People find art mysterious, they want to live with art but don’t know where to start. They don’t necessarily want to go to galleries, they don’t know what things are worth and they don’t want to rely on someone else’s opinion.”

While many of the works in the exhibitions are on loan, some are available for purchase through the artists’ galleries. Neither Max nor BAML benefit from the sales. Max says it was a deliberate decision to showcase mid-career artists rather than emerging artists: “mid-career artists need support, if they don’t get it they might have to put their paint brushes down and find a new career.” Gabby adds: “it is nice to put your best contenders up – artists who are tried and tested and yet still developing.”

Photography by Nikki Short
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