Art Collector’s Home: Bluethumb’s PR & Comms Manager
In a typical 1920s Melbourne weatherboard house, Bluethumb’s PR and Communications manager Freddy lives with his husband Burt, Jack Russell Grungle and Maine Coon Totoro. The renovated open plan living area has an abundance of natural light and is what drew the couple to buying their new home in the first place. Freddy describes the space as “perfect for hanging art”, which is fortunate as they have an ever growing and eclectic art collection.
Freddy has had an interest in the arts throughout his life. “I’ve always been creative and was interested in art, music and drama at school. I ended up studying performance art at university as it incorporated all three. The course was incredibly multidisciplinary so involved a lot of art history and writing. By the end of the course I liked that side of it the most, which is probably why I pursued a career in art.”
The house is furnished with a mainly orange and brown colour palette, not only adding to the retro feel, but also linking to the art greeting guests in the hallway. Beckoning you in are two batiks from the couple’s travels through Sri Lanka by Erik Suriyasena, a Sri Lankan artist and designer who’s kept the traditional method of dyeing cloth with wax alive by creating striking contemporary artworks. They perfectly contrast with the blue front door and set the tone for the living area further inside.The most convenient aspect of their new home is the secondhand store close by. “Pretty much everything we’ve bought for the house comes from The Vintage Workshop. Dave, the owner, restores things beautifully and charges a fraction of what you’d pay in Fitzroy.” Being so close to this treasure trove has helped Freddy realise his love for mid-century design and teak. The vintage pieces blend harmoniously throughout the house with more contemporary purchases.
Plants adorn the edges of the living space, adding pops of green to complement the warm tones of the decor. Hung in a nook between two windows is a colourful piece by Andrea Giles from Tjarlili Art. Beyond that, above the fireplace, is a piece by popular Bluethumb artist, Erin Nicholls. This piece was part of Bluethumb’s charity collaboration Created With Care. For this work Erin worked with furniture maker Lars Laug, who helped turn her drawing into a 3D masterpiece.
When purchasing art, Freddy doesn’t usually have a specific space in mind for it. However, he took a different approach when buying four of Karen Coull‘s Orchid Series for the enclave of their living area. “My house has a retro feel and I just knew Karen’s awesome collages were meant for it. But it was total luck that they balance so well with Ross Yulidjirri’s Lightning Man on the other side.”
“Finding the perfect space for the perfect artwork is a great feeling. I think it’s human instinct to collect and arrange things – most people do it in some way – so I guess that’s why it gives you a rush.”
Originally from the UK, Freddy first came to Australia as a backpacker. He lucked out and found himself working at an Indigenous art gallery in Darwin where legendary movie star David Gulpilil painted and sold his work. “I loved hanging out with David in the day and watching his films at night,” Freddy reminisces.
It was during this exciting time in Darwin that Freddy met his husband, Burt. Together they started their art collection with one of David’s signature golden crocodiles; the crocodile is David’s dreaming. This piece has hung in every home the couple have lived in and now hangs in their dining area.
When it comes to finding the next addition to their collection, Freddy says he doesn’t look for anything in particular. “I’m usually not looking for anything at all,” he laughs. Working at Bluethumb, he’s lucky enough to come across art he loves every day, so the real challenge is holding himself back from buying everything! He once made the mistake of drunkenly buying a discounted piece (which now hangs in his in-laws’ rented out apartment) and learnt his lesson: only buy pieces you truly love.
There’s no overarching theme or style to Freddy’s art collection. “We often buy art when we’re travelling and I seem to buy a lot of portraits, which is why I decided to start my own little portrait wall. One day it will be completely covered!”
Although he doesn’t buy collectible artists on purpose, he does have a few artworks that will likely appreciate in value. “It’s exciting buying artworks by emerging stars like Kim Leutwyler and Loribelle Spirovski, who’ve both been finalists in the Archibald twice now. But I’d buy their work anyway – dinosaurs, tits and beautiful men – what’s not to love! They’re amazing and still surprisingly affordable.”
In the future, Freddy hopes to add more photography to his collection. Currently, he owns one print by Ben Goh, and displays a photograph on his TV with permission from the photographer. However, having seen Alice Blanch‘s winning photograph in the Bluethumb Art Prize, he’s feeling inspired.
Asked what his favourite part of using Bluethumb is, Freddy doesn’t hesitate: “Connecting with the artists. It’s a very personal experience for both buyer and artist. Artists often send you beautiful thank you notes and extra gifts, which is such a lovely bonus when you open the box.”