Art Collector’s Home: Best Selling Artist Sally Browne

Sally Browne‘s warm Federation brick home wasn’t always as inviting as it is now. Built in 1911, the 4 bedroom dwelling was in a dilapidated state when Sally and her husband bought it in 2007. It took them years to renovate the place to its current grandeur, but they thoroughly enjoyed the roughness initially. “We had some good parties,” explains Sally, despite having holes in the ceiling, rusty taps and the only toilet being an outhouse. “We renovated it in 2011, the same year as Pearl was born. I got fed up going out to the garden for a pee 4 times a night during my pregnancy. I came home from the hospital with a new born baby to a roof-less house and 6 builders scrambling to get the roof on before night fall.”

Entrance to red brick home with vines covering the verandah

This house has come a long way since Sally Browne and her husband Nigel bought it in 2007!

The red brick facade is built out of local St Peters bricks, and Sally lives there with her husband, Nigel and two daughters, Pearl and Honey. The family spend a lot of time together in the main living areas of the house, and are fond of entertaining. “We love hosting dinner parties, although since the kids came along we are more inclined to host a boozy lunch,” explains Sally. “Otherwise our friends without kids want to party on until the wee hours.”

Sally Browne and the family

Sally Browne, her husband Nigel, 8 year old daughter Pearl and 5 year old Honey.

Sally considers herself “a total homebody”, so it’s been important to make her space a happy one. Her art studio is tucked into one of the four bedrooms, but the creative magic is spread throughout the house. Her own work hangs on a handful of walls, with the real stars being an eclectic collection of art sourced from all over. There’s no particular theme to the collection. “Contemporary, pop, abstract, cubism, minimalism, impressionist – all styles are welcome at my place.”

Sally in front of her millenium pink front door holding Rupert the cat

Sally’s stunning millennial pink front door opens on to two beautiful portraits of her husband Nigel and her beloved first Burmese cat Kimba, both by Martin Middleton.

While a particular style or movement may not matter, buying art is like falling in love for Sally. She finds the process exhilarating and each piece that joins her collection has captured her heart and comes from a moment of connection. “I feel like the pieces choose me rather than the other way around. Sometimes I’m just tipsy at the opening and get swept up in the romanticism and thrill of purchasing art, but I’ve honestly never experienced any buyers remorse.”

Every artwork is an investment for Sally. “I believe each piece is going to be collectable one day. And if I’m wrong, then it’s an investment we’ve enjoyed every day so it’s a win win. I’m interested in purchasing work from emerging artists with a track record who are active in the art prize and exhibition circuit. I tend to stay away from trends; original art is not something you’re going to change up like your scatter cushions, so I have to feel like I can have a lifelong relationship with my choices.”

small framed Impressionist seascape hanging by millenium pink door

A gorgeous small Katie Wyatt landscape hangs by the front door, opposite the paintings of Nigel and Kimba.

Surprisingly, the artworks adorning Sally’s walls are strikingly different to her own work. “My taste is quite eclectic and I err on the side of androgynous looking artwork if that makes sense. My own work is quite decorative and feminine – that’s just what comes out of me, it’s out of my control. But I have always loved contemporary art. I think one of my favourite exhibitions I’ve seen in recent years was Anish Kapoor at the MCA a few years back. He totally blew my mind.”

Hallway with striped rug and two large artworks

Upon entering, guests are greeted by a hallway dedicated to art. The two large works on the side walls are by Sally herself, with the sculpture at the end by Mark Schultz and the large woodcut by NZ artist Sam Harrison.

It was Sally’s father who instilled a love of art when she was a child. “He taught me to draw and paint when I was about 5,” she recalls. “At school I was only interested in art. My maths and science books were filled with doodles and cartoons of my teachers (mostly unflattering). I left school at 16 and went straight to Art school. There I found my tribe.”

Artists among her impressive collection include Bluethumb’s own Brendan Kelly, Stephen Homewood, Marnie McKnight, Katie Wyatt, Ben Tankard, Stuart Cole, James Needham and George Hall, as well as contemporary photographic artist Gemma Avery.

gallery wall display with bird sculpture

Sally Browne’s mini-gallery in the intersection of her hallway and lounge. Clockwise from left: Tyre bird Sculpture by Mark Schultz, Large Woodcut by NZ artist Sam Harrison, Abstract painting by Kyle Murrell, Small white portrair by Tania Browitt, “Big Liz” by Gemma Avery, Nude Oil painting by James Needham.

There are a lot of things to love about a life (and home!) chock-full of art. As Sally eloquently puts it buying art is exhilarating as “it is an act of both love and defiance”.

“To the artist because you’re basically saying ‘I see you, I love what you’ve created and I validate and support your life choice’. Love to yourself because you’re acknowledging and prioritising your own need for beauty and happiness in your life, and defiance against that nasty whiny inner voice who’ d rather you paid the car insurance or save your money for a rainy day instead.

“I love that each work of art we own is a snapshot in time that co exists and grows old with our family. And I also feel like art is immortal, it will outlive all of us and be in someone else’s possession some day, maybe future generations of our own family, or complete strangers who find a bargain at a flea market with no idea of it’s history but love it all the same – much like some of the work in my own collection.

“Art transcends time and is far superior to anything else you spend your money on – with the exception of travel and experiences. You’re never going to get the same amount of feel good or value buying a designer handbag. The planet has enough trinkets and tat to cope with that will end up in landfill for hundreds of years. I never feel guilty about spending money on art. Never.”

Eclectic living room with guitars, animal rug, plant and multiple artworks

The kitchen, lounge and dining areas are where the Browne family congregate to play, eat and hang out. Clockwise from Top: Portrait by local Street artist Daniel O’Toole (AKA Ears), Wild Eyed Convict by Stephen Homewood, Blue/Black Abstract by Sally Browne. On the other wall: 2 contemporary screen printed portraits and an unknown artist purchased from a graduate at a COFA opening day in 2005.

The journey into collecting was not a deliberate one. “It was quite unconscious in the beginning,” explains Sally. “When most of your friends are artists you just accumulate gifts and swapsies. When Nigel and I got married we made a decision to purchase an original artwork together as a joint anniversary present each year, that’s when we started going to exhibitions and buying artwork instead of just drinking the free wine. Mostly works were under $1000 to start with.

“Then at the end of my design career I had a fantastic opportunity to design the logo and brand identity for a new artist-run initiative. The directors were National Art School alumni. The budget was quite generous and I was paid in artwork of my choosing. I acquired four really great works out of that job and I started to get an appetite for collecting.”

Wide angle view of lounge

The view of the open plan dining and living space of Sally Browne’s eclectic Sydney pad.

So what do Sally’s daughters think of living in such a colourful, art-filled home? 5 year old Honey finds it “really weird”, however her older sister is a fan. “It makes me happy,” says 8 year old Pearl, “because it’s inspiring.” Her favourite artwork? “The Stuart Cole – because it’s colourful.”

Sally Browne's dining room with light timber table and colourful abstract art hanging above timber sideboard

Pearl’s favourite artwork by Stuart Cole hangs in the corner of the dining room.

Given Sally’s passion for collecting art and supporting fellow artists, it’s no surprise that her collection is ever growing. “I’ve always got about 100 pieces on my favourites list on Bluethumb and we are often at friends’ gallery openings. When the stars align I usually just snap something up without much notice.”

Her dream artwork, if all the obstacles were removed, would have to be Brett Whiteley’s The Balcony 2. “And if there’s any change left I’d like Matisse’s The Pink Studio, thank you very much.”

Balcony 2 by Brett Whiteley. Dark blue abstract landscape of Sydney harbour.

The Balcony 2 by Brett Whiteley is Sally’s dream artwork, closely followed by The Pink Studio by Matisse.

Sally has a unique perspective on collecting art, playing both sides of the art market as an artist and a collector. She has wise words for anyone hesitant about starting their own collecting journey: “My friend is a nurse who cares for people in their last days. Nobody ever wishes they worked more or were more responsible. If you are still thinking about that artwork after more than a week, buy it!”

Keep scrolling down to poke into the bedrooms and home studio of Sally Browne or shop a selection of her favourites in her artist picks curation.

Photos by Bluethumb photographer Peter Collie.

Embellished stuffed squirrel hanging above two small abstract artworks

Artworks: Mr. Squirrel purchased from “the Squirrel Man” in the USA, Michael McIntyre and Tim Corne.

oil paint studies hanging in Sally Browne's home art studio

Peek at the oil studies hanging in Sally’s home studio!

Art studio of Sally Browne

Sally’s work lines the walls of her home studio, with her latest piece perched on the easel.

White abstract artwork in hallway

Liz Shreeve catches the light perfectly in the hallway.

Burmese cat stretching on striped rug.

Rupert the cat doing his morning yoga in the hallway.

Original artwork by Sally Browne

“Lion Island 2019, Gouache on brown paper. The only artwork of mine that I can’t part with. This lives permanently in the hall.”

Master bedroom with floral duvet and Marnie McKnight abstract

A statement piece by Marnie McKnight adorns the master bedroom.

Eclectic kids room at Sally Browne's house

The kids’ room features stunning upcycled green cabinets and contrasting pink monkey artworks by Sally herself.

gallery wall in kids room at Sally Browne's

Sally’s daughters are lucky to have their own gallery wall in their shared bedroom! Featuring work by Ben Tankard, Frizzell, Honey’s own art, a junk shop find and a Coco de Paris print.

Sally Browne's art collection

Another cluster of art creates a feature in the guest room. Clockwise from bottom left: Sally Browne Still life Oil, Chinese Propaganda Poster brought home from a trip to Shanghai, Sally Browne still life oil paintings, Pomegranates and Silver Dollar in Glass Jar, Flight path map (artist unknown), Little Oil painting of Bintang Mug and toothbrushes by James Needham, Penguin Screen Print from New Zealand (artist unknown), Deconstructed map by Michael McIntyre, The Red One that Ron Like by Brendan Kelly.

Brendan Kelly artwork reflected in glass. Sally Browne's home tour.

The Brendan Kelly is reflected in the mirror opposite.

Artwork by George Hall hanging in Sally Browne's living room.

A gorgeous little George Hall piece is tucked in the corner of the lounge.

Sally chasing cheeky little Rupert in the dining room!

Every City Needs Lungs by Kate Gradwell
10 of the Best New Emerging Australian Artists of 2020

5 Comments

  1. Pete says:

    An interesting feature that gives an insight of just how eclectic and varied a collection of art we amass. There seems to be no rhyme or reason or particular theme for an art collection. The only excuse for adding another one is “because I liked it !”

  2. Gary Bloxham says:

    Hi Sal

    So happy things are going great for you. Love the artwork. Gary xxxx

    • Kat Schmitt says:

      I love this article you Sally, what a great insight into your creative lifestyle. I absolutelly adore your beautiful collection of artworks, how they hang and how they all tell a story. Your home is very stylish too! Congratulations I wish you every success.

  3. George Hall says:

    OMG your place and art look so beautiful, as it is in real life. Gx

  4. Virginia McGowan says:

    Superb house nice and large insanely envious, although not living in Vic! Been there done that! a brilliant fabulous gorgeous art collection — I have many pieces of fabulous well know artists. lucky too some gifted to me— unfortunately my home is tiny, not many large walls due to me being too ill to make money to build larger, lucky though, I have a high set so I have a huge art /textile studio fun room underneath purpose built ,
    Gini.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *