Collector’s Corner presents a series of conversations with avid art collectors, searching for the rich stories and ideas that are woven into their incredible (and enviable!) collections. The collectors we chat with show a boundless support of contemporary art, with their ever-growing enthusiasm entwined with the story and artists of Arts Project Australia.
For our second edition of Collector’s Corner we caught up with Abi Crompton, founder and Director of Third Drawer Down. Established in 2003, Third Drawer Down is an innovative company that specialises in creating limited edition art products, featuring the works of Australian and international artists and designers (think Ai Wei Wei, David Shrigley, Jon Campbell and Frances Cannon among many others).
We recently had the great fortune of collaborating with Third Drawer Down (alongside the National Gallery of Victoria) to produce Australiana: a series of merchandise featuring the work of Arts Project artists, creating everything from Sidney Nolan-inspired hip flasks to Hey Hey It’s Saturday! cooler bags.
Read below as Abi tells us about her current “art crushes”, collaborating with Louise Bourgeois and how collecting is about the personal connections she makes with artists and art…
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us about how you first met Arts Project Australia?
I was introduced to Arts Project when Bronwyn Johnson [President of Arts Project Australia] was the Director of Melbourne Art Fair, and she told me I should buy an Alan Constable camera. I went to the Arts Project stand and fell in love. Later, while eating sushi on the stairs at the Melbourne Art Fair and pining over how I could collaborate with Arts Project, I somehow happened to be sitting next to Sue Roff [Director of Arts Project Australia] who was stuffing envelopes. We started to chat and an art-love affair began!
We’re curious as to how you first became interested in art? And how did this interest link with founding Third Drawer Down?
I become interested in art while studying psychology in my early twenties. I completed this degree and then put together a portfolio and studied fine art for five years, as I realised I was more ‘left brain’ than ‘right brain’. I do feel like I use all parts of my brain now though, especially as working with artists to develop objects requires empathy, understanding and creative processes.
How would you describe your approach to collecting art? Or, even better, what kind of collector are you?
I collect art the same way I work with artists: visual impulse and appreciation of an artist’s values. My collection is mainly based upon the artists I have a relationship with, as their story is apart of my story, and the story of Third Drawer Down.
Generally speaking, which contemporary artists do you most admire and why? Is there someone in particular who’d be your dream to collaborate with one day?
I have so many artists I admire. If I had to pick them today, I’d say David Shrigley, Yayoi Kusama and Guerrilla Girls. All of them have their own unique way of communicating the currency of our current times. It’s the ‘right now’, either through politics, humour or beauty. My dream collaborations include Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger and Kerry James-Marshall.
Can you describe your best art experience for us? Or perhaps a great Third Drawer Down moment?
My favourite collaborations… hmm. Well, there are a few and they all carry amazing stories as I’ve met such remarkable people through collaborating with them. While I have told this following story a few times, it still remains vividly in my mind: I have always had a major “art crush” on Louise Bourgeois and a few years ago Tate in London invited me to meet and discuss working together on projects. The day before the meeting, I walked around Tate with my notebook listing all the artists I have dreamed of working with: quite a list if I don’t say so myself! So there I was, sitting in the meeting the following day and the Tate opened the dialogue with the forthcoming Louise Bourgeois project, and I jumped in head first, telling them about my list of artists and my personal list being headed by Louise Bourgeois. My meeting folk looked at each other and slid a folder across the table, saying, ‘”Well Abi, it is Louise Bourgeois we want you to work with!” How is that! I was so buzzed out, she so rocks my world and I couldn’t believe my fate in this scenario. This was the first major project with a museum and the beginning of the Third Drawer Down Studio. During the fantastic project, I met Louise while in New York and she signed the prototype handkerchief we were developing. It reads: “I HAVE BEEN TO HELL AND BACK. AND LET ME TELL YOU IT WAS WONDERFUL”.
Describe the artworks you have collected from Arts Project. Is there a pride of place where they sit or hang?
I have collected works by Paul Hodges, Lisa Reid, Terry Williams, Alan Constable, Patrick Francis and Peter Cave. They are the proudest artworks I have in our home and they take over the entrance hall and lounge room. My most cherished is the painting Peter Cave created of me dancing in a banana suit!
In 140 characters or less, distil for us what it is you like about being a collector and friend of Arts Project?
I love everything Arts Project stands for – the artists and the team that make the magic happen, and the community that supports this. It’s more family than organisation.
If you were to purchase another Arts Project artwork right now, which artist would you look at and why?
I would buy more Laura Sheehan. Her recent solo exhibition at Arts Project was so wonderful. Her lively, colourful and whimsical paintings of soft-toys-pastiche rocked my world. We were fighting over them at work when the invite was sent!
And finally, what pearls of wisdom would you give a first-time collector?
Buy from the heart. Art should be about your experience to it, not what others tell you to feel.
This is Arts Project Australia’s second edition of Collector’s Corner. Have a read of our first edition with Sofitel Melbourne Manager Clive Scott. Stay tuned for further editions (coming very soon!) and feel free to gander through our art collections, as well as find out more about Arts Project Australia’s artists and art.