Art Collector’s Home: Bluethumb’s Curator Sarah Newton
It’s time for a new edition of our Art Collector’s Home series! Peer inside the art-filled paradise of our curator Sarah Newton in Melbourne’s leafy inner-east. The single-story Richmond rental is home to newly-wedded Sarah and Caleb and their 5-month old Jackapoo puppy Tippa. Originally from Perth, the couple have settled after a spending a few years in Melbourne, falling in love with the art capital.
Moving interstate triggered a change in attitude towards possessions for the newlywed couple. “Before we left Western Australia we pretty much sold everything we owned and loaned our sentimental items to family and friends so we could have a fresh start,” explains Sarah.
“We now lease our two-bedroom weatherboard home in Richmond. We wanted to live here based on the wild front garden and the leafy back courtyard. The house is owned by this old Czech guy who comes and does the maintenance himself. It keeps the rent down, but every wall is a different colour and no carpet is the same! We like that though, how mismatched it is and how every part of it is comfortable, full of colour and different textures.
“That’s kind of how we approached filling the house. Our furniture was either given to us, found on the side of the road or second-hand. Knowing that one day we would want to move back to Western Australia, we didn’t want to spend too much money on things we can’t bring back with us, which is why I think we have invested so much in art.”
Sarah’s passion for art has played a huge role in her life since she was young. It was during her high school studies that she discovered her “flair for painting”, which she then followed through to university with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Edith Cowan University.
“My creative obsession is the reason I moved to Melbourne,” explains Sarah, “so that I could complete my Masters in Arts Management at RMIT and also live in Australia’s arts and cultural capital. My whole life has been art and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
When it comes to building their art collection, Caleb and Sarah have a special way of choosing works. Most of the artworks were given as a gift – whether from each other or from family and friends. “With the fear of filling our space too quickly, Caleb and I agreed that we would only gift each other art (although I do sneak in the odd purchase occasionally!), which means each piece we own really means something to the both of us.
“I think it’s a real compliment for a loved one to choose art for you. It can be so personal and emotionally driven, I feel it means that you really know them.”
Despite Sarah steering the collection by doing most of the gifting, there’s no connecting theme between the artworks, so all manner of styles and subjects are represented. Sarah does admit that she “tends to collect warmer colours”.
Whenever a new piece comes into their home, it can be a challenge to decide where to hang it. Without a clear plan, they shuffle the works around, like Sarah would in Bluethumb’s own gallery, until they find a place for them that feels just right. Sarah prefers it this way. “It’s like my home is a gallery – every time we buy another piece the whole room might change.”
It’s no challenge for someone in Sarah’s line of work to discover and fall in love with new artworks. “I’m so lucky that my work with Bluethumb means I get to look at art every day, so I often have a few artists and artworks saved in my favourites. When I see something appealing, I’ll then do a little research into the artist. I’ll look at their older work, exhibitions, and Instagram to get a feel for who they are.”
Sarah has an ever-growing list of artworks that tickle her fancy, from Instagram stars to emerging artists on Bluethumb. So who is on her list at the moment? “I’ve always wanted an original of the well-known Instagram artist Alphachanneling. I’m obsessed with her work.
“Every now and then photographer Sarah Bah Bah releases a couple of limited edition prints. They always sell out and I’ve not been fast enough to get my hands on one.
“I’m a very big fan of CJ Hendry. I love how she incorporates her hyperrealistic drawings into incredible visitor experiences. She’s really challenging the art world as we know it. I’ll never be able to afford one of her works but would love to visit her next show.
“I’ve been dreaming about owning a painting by Lise Temple forever. I also have my eye on a piece by botanical painter Claire Souter – just saving up for it. I won’t say much more for fear that someone might purchase it!”
Moving through the hallway and into the living room of the dwelling, it’s clear this room is where the newlyweds spend their time. The lounge is brimming with knick knacks reminiscent of many weekends and evenings spent listening to records, playing guitar and just enjoying quality time with each other. The bookshelf in particular is a testament to Sarah’s arts background – stuffed with books on a range of arts mediums and practices, as well as small postcard sized artworks. Like many millennials, they’ve brought the outside in with a variety of house plants.
Given the space is so central to their lives, it’s no shock that this room is home to most of the artworks in Sarah’s collection. Above the couch hangs a gallery wall filled with Bluethumb artists – including Wayne Smith, Elizabeth Wojciak, Linda Lee, Maz Dixon, Iljta Njarra Many Hands Art Centre and a commission by local Melbourne artist Julian Cobb. Tucked amongst other nooks and crannies of the room are some of Sarah’s own still life paintings of plants and a range of artists Sarah has discovered locally through Instagram, friends and markets.
When it comes to collecting art, Sarah is a fan of commissioning. “My favourite pieces in my collection are commissions,” she explains, “Don’t be afraid to commission work – it’s a great way to personalise a piece. They also make the best conversation starters!”
The Edwardian weatherboard embraces its eclectic, mismatched vibe with a retro kitchen. Classic white cabinetry sits opposite a wall featuring a Sally Browne floral print and original drawing by Silje Soldal. Below these sits the dining table, where friends often gather to share meals in the cosy home.
“The living area is where we cook, listen to records and play with our Jackapoo pup, Tippa. Sometimes Melbourne can be an expensive place to live, so we have set ourselves up so that we never have to leave home; everything we need really is in one place.
“On warmer days our life floods into our back courtyard. We open all the doors and windows and crank the tunes. You’ll often find Caleb swinging on the hammock playing guitar, I’ll be painting or reading a book and Tip will most likely be chewing on something he shouldn’t at our feet.”
Wandering through Sarah’s home, it’s clear the space is a testament to the lifestyle the couple share and truly reflects their attitudes to life and the role art plays in it. Despite already having an extensive art collection, there’s always more works on the horizon and more walls to cover. The Richmond home proves that anti-minimalism is on the rise and serves as a great inspiration to anyone aspiring to turn a home into their own personal art gallery.
Keep scrolling to tour the rest of the house or click here to browse Sarah’s secret stash of favourite artworks.