Remarkable collectors & philanthropists: Roz MacAllen & John Potter - Art Collector

Issue 63, January - March 2013

This profile appeared in the Remarkable collectors & philanthropists feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2013.

Roz MacAllan and John Porter, photographed by Mick Richards

Roz MacAllan and John Potter have been interested in contemporary art since long before it was fashionable. It has informed their interests absolutely, from their involvement as gallerists – the Roz MacAllan Gallery operated in Brisbane from 1987 until 1991, then as an art consultancy until 1996 – to the destinations they choose as world travellers. “We regularly visit the major venues – from Bilbao to Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art, the Venice Biennale and commercial art galleries wherever we are. We’re interested in the current and enjoy knowing that we’re on a similar level with our involvement in Brisbane.”

Their relationship with the Queensland Art Gallery began in 1994 and has so far yielded 26 works for the gallery’s collection. Julie Ewington, head of the gallery’s Australian art department, describes these works as “a distinguished group, ranging from local artists such as Sandra Selig and Margaret Wilson to heavy-hitter Robert Jacks and Callum Morton, who was then [at the time of the acquisition] an emerging artist”.

MacAllan and Potter are known for supporting the acquisition of works that are outside the mainstream or otherwise difficult to secure. Ewington comments: “Because they understand art and culture we could go to them in 2003 and say ‘There is a young artist, her installation work is important, and she is going places.’ Sandra Selig’s mid-air was her first thread installation yet it is, essentially, just a bunch of nylon thread and Styrofoam balls. And Roz and John get it.”

Ewington adds: “They are engaged – engaged as gallerists, engaged as collectors, engaged in the slow food movement and engaged in travel. All of our collectors have passions they follow and you really can never tell where those interests will take them. With Roz and John there is dialogue and history, and a delicious element of unpredictability. They have been interlocutors in a dialogue with the gallery over a long time.”

MacAllan recalls that when her gallery closed “we wished to remain involved and this satisfied our need to support artists – what better way than to get work into the state collection? We wanted to feel identification with the choices. Conventional fundraising didn’t interest us.”

The relationship continues, with a work from the couple’s personal collection, Jenny Watson’s Private Landscape, a recent gift. MacAllan’s knowledge is also contributing to an upcoming retrospective of an artist she formerly represented. Ruth Stoneley: A Stitch in Time will coincide with an international exhibition from the Victoria & Albert Museum titled Quilts 1700-1945. Both open at Queensland Art Gallery in June 2013.

Louise Martin-Chew

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