Roslyn Oxley & Her Collectors - Art Collector

Issue 32 April-June 2005

Andrew Frost talks to leading Sydney dealer Roslyn Oxley about the rise of contemporary art in the primary and secondary markets over the last two decades and the changing nature of collecting.

Australian Art Collector: Are there more people buying and collecting art than 10 years ago?
Roslyn Oxley: A lot more, the market has really blossomed.

AAC: How has the market widened? Are there more people of varied ages, is it a different demographic?
RO: Our collectors have been following what we’ve been doing for the last 20 years. Now that [new] collectors have got more money, they are interested in purchasing too. A lot of [our] artists have also become quite well known.

AAC: Do the people who have been collecting from you follow the careers of particular artists or are they interested in the younger artists who have joined your stable in the last couple of years?
RO: I think that they are interested in the lot. You’ll find that some collectors do love a particular artist and they keep buying from each show. Some people have four or five [works] by one artist, which is really nice. And then you will find people with broad collections.

AAC: Are there negative effects of so much contemporary art being available in the secondary market?
RO: Some artists have been constantly traded-in by people who think it’s a good time to cash in. I think that we’re getting a lot more publicity about the overseas market and I also think that people take the art market seriously. It’s good fun buying art, hanging art and it’s even better fun if [an artist’s] price goes up…

AAC: Do you find that there are people who are buying art purely as decoration?
RO: No.

AAC: Has that ever been the case?
RO: Occasionally people come in and say ‘that colour isn’t going to really suit [my place]’. Or some people like one colour above another. You get your developers and they want a painting, but usually our paintings are a bit too expensive for them.

AAC: Developers?
RO: You know – people [who] are building flats – apartments.

AAC: And they want to put some art in it?
RO: Yes, in the demonstration [apartment].

AAC: Ten years ago, were there people who were buying purely for investment purposes?
RO: During that time we really were still building our artists up. In those days [our artists] didn’t have the huge reputations they have now. We were showing Bill Henson then, and although [people knew] he was a top photographer, he didn’t have the reputation. And Tracey Moffatt – I mean – wow – full on. She’s totally international now, whereas in the early 90s she was hardly making a sale. In the 90s people weren’t buying our artists as investment … but they are now! [Laughs].

AAC: How would you explain the rise to prominence of Tracey Moffatt?
RO: Tracey’s work is very distinctive and people relate to it on a personal level. Her work has a very wide appeal. It speaks to people and draws them in.

AAC: Are any of your other artists beginning to show signs of attracting the kind of international
attention Moffatt has?
RO: Bill Henson and Patricia Piccinini have both been showing in New York recently with tremendous success. People all over the world love Bill’s work. It’s a real draw card. He has also had great support form writers and critics internationally.

AAC: Are you planning on spending as much money as you have in previous years taking the work of your artists offshore?
RO: Yes definitely. When the opportunities arise and look good. It is very beneficial. It broadens the audience. When we go offshore there is a great flow on. People get to see the work and then through our website get to keep in touch.

AAC: Do you think stories of people buying works and then putting them in storage to quietly appreciate are apocryphal?
RO: I think there are a few people in Australia who do buy a lot of overseas art and a lot of that is in storage because they have so much of it. It’s not because they don’t want to look at it. No one buys art they hate.

AAC: Who is the most recent addition to your stable and what excites you about them?
RO: Michael Parekowhai. He is from New Zealand and his use of materials is really exciting, end of story. He uses a great variety of materials, with unexpected concepts. He is so different and individual, and that's what we like in this space. All our artists are very different.

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