Remarkable collectors & philanthropists: Brian Tucker - Art Collector

Issue 59, January - March 2012

This profile appeared in the Remarkable collectors & philanthropists feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2012.

Brian Tucker is not your usual suited accountant. Tucker’s work uniform is more likely to be a t-shirt and bright sarong, along with a bevy of sparkling jewels. This self-confessed king of bling is also not shy of a touch of polish, often black, to set off his fingernails and overall appearance: a cross between The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert and Elvis Presley (with the beachside, high-bling accents). Eccentric though he may be in dress, Tucker is one shrewd and very busy accountant, running a highly successful Brisbane-based firm, Brian Tucker Accounting (which he started in 1980) and travelling the country, particularly the Top End, as an outback auditor for a growing number of Aboriginal art centres and their representative bodies.

Tucker’s art collecting dates from 20-odd years ago and is but one facet of his varied and highly generous contribution to the arts. In this time he has also volunteered on boards (including for Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Flying Arts and Youth Arts Queensland), sponsored and judged prizes, participated in senate committee hearings and delivered workshops. The last prize he judged, the 2011 24HR Art Centre of Contemporary Art Members’ Show, went to the work of Darwin photographer Fiona Morrison. “I’m seriously looking at buying her work,” says Tucker, softening his claim to buying simply “on impulse,” and a sign of his acumen in supporting early career artists who generally fulfil their promise.

Tucker’s collection now numbers approximately 930 artworks with about 40 per cent by Indigenous artists. The collection reflects Tucker’s base in Brisbane as well as his wide Top End travels, with a predominance of work from Queensland, the Northern Territory and north Western Australia. “I don’t see a particular theme in my collection,” says Tucker. “That’s for others to see … I feel for what I collect.” As, in fact, audiences did when Tucker’s collection was the inspiration for two curated exhibitions, Accounting for the Collector: the Brian Tucker Collection, shown concurrently at Logan Art Gallery and Redcliff City Gallery, Queensland in 2009. “It was a fantastic experience,” he says of the chance to see his collection “properly hung and curated”. Some of the commentary book feedback on his Redcliff show, which focused on the collection’s Indigenous work, said “changed my mind completely [about Aboriginal art]” and “this is the happiest show I’ve seen”.

Like many avid collectors, most of Tucker’s collection is stored away. Around 20 per cent of the collection is on display throughout his offices and works are regularly loaned for neighbouring and interstate spaces or for particular exhibitions. He has loaned work for Shirley Purdie, an exhibition touring Southeast Asia, and an early work by Gemma Smith was included in the Cubism & Australian Art exhibition at Melbourne’s Heide Museum of Modern Art in 2009 and 2010.

Tucker’s recent purchases have tended towards the streetwise and urban, with work by street artists such as Vexta, Ha-Ha and Rone (all from Melbourne). Beanies also feature as a discrete genre in the mix, Tucker’s longstanding association with the annual Alice Springs Beanie Festival ensuring a wildly rich and ready supply. As a reflection of an art-filled life lived with passionate, daring taste, and at the coalface of remote Aboriginal Australian community life, Tucker’s collection (which employs a part-time cataloguer and dedicated database) is a lively forum for diverse aesthetic interests and causes. It’s also one of his key avenues for supporting artists.

Maurice O’Riordan

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