the Elliott Eyes Collection (tEEC) of contemporary art is housed in a private Victorian terrace house in Erskineville, Sydney NSW.
The collection of approximately 300 works (sculpture, painting and ceramics) focuses mainly on Australian and New Zealand art, but also includes work by German, Belgium, American, South African and English artists, all of which are on display. Four major outdoor sculptures extend the collection beyond the usual interior walls, tables, mantels and, in our case, even the floor of the house.
The decision to open tEEC to public tours was prompted by a visit to Terry Stringer’s sculpture park “Zealandia” north of Auckland and by our inclusion in Skadi Heckmueller’s book, “Private: A Guide to Personal Art Collections in Australia and New Zealand” (Dott Publishing, 2015). It also follows the opening of the Lyon Housemusem and the Justin Art House Museum in Melbourne; both exceptional collections and buildings well worth a visit.
It is also motivated by the realization that once works become part of a private collection they can easily be ‘lost’ to public view. Sharing these works, and listening to other people’s comments and responses adds immensely to the pleasure we are lucky to experience as we engage with and enjoy the collection on a daily basis.
The wonderful experience provided by the recent trend of housemuseums, is that each venue is truly individual and unique; expressing the personal interests and character of the owners/collectors. Allen Weiss in "The Grain of the Clay" (Reaction Books,2016) has described collecting, or a collection, as an autobiographical statement. Unencumbered by the boundaries, rules and bureaucracy of public galleries, the housemusem displays the passion of the collector – individualistic, subjective, imaginative and zany.
It is important to say that we live permanently with our collection. We are not a museum or a gallery. Artworks are displayed and incorporated into the everyday spaces of our house, working around the normal aspects and tasks of a standard household. We find ourselves drying off in the shower, trying to avoid knocking over Jim Cooper’s large ceramic flower and duck or, in quieter moments, spending endless hours trying to decipher just what is going on in Mark Whalon’s mysterious and deliciously perverse paintings. Some works are functional – Michael Snape’s security door - while others are more traditional, decorative pieces, acquired and admired simply because they are beautiful or significant works in contemporary (Australian) art history.
While our collection is constantly growing, sometimes in divergent, unexpected directions, it’s central focus is on the figure in the landscape. This theme is only loosely adhered to, so an outlier work of art can easily capture our attention and find it’s way into the collection. Some works are ‘serious’ (e.g. our obsession with the 1950s and 1960s paintings by James Gleeson) and others are just ‘fun’ (e.g. Madeleine Childs’ ceramic popcorn).