BMW Art Guide by Independent Collectors

White Rabbit Collection

Chinese Contemporary Art – Australia, Sydney

Judith Neilson
Judith Neilson

White Rabbit Gallery sits on the border of old and new Sydney. On one side of the gallery is the leafy suburb of Chippendale: Victorian terrace houses, iron lace, and bars on the windows. On the other is Central Park, a gleaming high-rise development on the former site of a 168-year-old brewery. The gallery itself sits in a glass-fronted conversion of a Rolls-Royce service depot. It is the public exhibition space for Judith and Kerr Neilson’s collection of contemporary art by more than 200 Chinese artists.

On a Thursday morning the gallery is full and humming with conversation.

Installation view of "Reformation" at the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, 2014
Installation view of "Reformation" at the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, 2014
Zhou Zixi Dawn, Light Fog, 2009
Zhou Zixi Dawn, Light Fog, 2009

The gallery has made distinctive choices about how to show the collection. Two walls that reach from the ground floor to the ceiling of the fourth floor are covered with paintings, only centimeters of space between their frames. This is such an unexpected way to look at paintings but feels powerful and fresh. It is not possible to look at one painting without the edges of others encroaching on your field of vision. Seeing the paintings in this way takes the focus away from the artists, and puts it onto the artistic expression of a cultural moment.

On the upper floors, each artwork has a label that gives more detail about it, as in a conventional gallery. Unlike in a conventional gallery, the text on the labels is almost entirely descriptive. The labels sit far off to the side of the work, or around a corner. I find myself spending time with each work before I read anything about it.

Zhou Zixi’s “Dawn–Light Fog“ depicts an infamous scene of the student protest at Tiananmen Square, painted over in white, as though viewed through a fog. The label reads: “Zhou Zixi fears that if events like the June 1989 protests and massacre in Tiananmen Square are not constantly revisited, time and censorship will quietly erase them.“ Looking at the painting mirrors the way the artist says we look at the past, but forces us also to look in a new way: closely and with careful attention.

Installation view of "Reformation" at the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, 2014
Installation view of "Reformation" at the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, 2014

Throughout the gallery, guides are dressed in brightly colored aprons. They strike up conversations with visitors, share ideas about the work.

I ask Peter Mintah-Owusu, the security guard, about his favorite work. “Imitating Travelers Among Mountains and Streams by Fan Kuan“ is Chen Chun-Hao’s response to an iconic 1000-year-old painting. From a distance I see a canvas of very delicate brushstrokes, but as Peter walks me over I notice something unbelievable: the lines are composed of thousands of tiny nails. “It’s wonderful,“ Peter says, “it’s just too fine.“

Peter points up to a painting on the gallery wall and asks me what I see. It is “The Occasion No. 1“ by He Gong. Dark and fuzzy, the painting could be of nothing or anything. I look closely for a moment and now I see an oncoming train, human figures on the tracks in front of it. I describe this to Peter and he agrees. He sees the painting as a critique of the Chinese government: “But if I were a Chinese politician, what would I say?“

Installation view of "Reformation" at the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, 2014
Installation view of "Reformation" at the White Rabbit Gallery, Sydney, 2014

Making art, says Peter, “is ideal for sending out a message to the world that the government can’t block. The meaning is blurred.“

It could be a train, it could be a regime: it could be nothing.

Melbourne-based Lara Week is a designer for theatre and dance, and associate producer for international arts lab Tribal Soul.

Photos by © White Rabbit Gallery

More Information on White Rabbit Gallery

Collections (93)

Museum Liaunig

Nuriel Molcho and Francesca Gavin travel out of Vienna to hillside Carinthia, to meet with Peter Liaunig

Fundació Vila Casas

Three buildings, three points of focus: painting, sculpture and photography

Gibbs Farm

A sculpture park in XXL format with monumental art in the grandness of nature

Kloster Schoenthal

Nature-inspired sculptures in a pristine landscape

Pinchuk Art Centre

Blue-chip contemporary in the first private museum in the former USSR

Museo James Turrell — The Hess Art Collection, Colomé

Turrell’s largest Skyspace and additional light rooms in breathtaking surroundings


An extensive private collection of Swiss contemporary art of the last fifty years

Mathaf—Arab Museum of Modern Art

A Royal Collection Spanning 200 Years of Arab Art – Doha, Qatar

Sara Piccinini

Senior Coordinator, Collezione Maramotti - Reggio Emilia, Italy

Reflection and Speculation

Sammlung von Kelterborn – Frankfurt, Germany


DJ Cassy and Francesca Gavin meet with collectors Venke and Rolf A. Hoff in Henningsvær, Norway

Deichtorhallen Hamburg – Sammlung Falckenberg

Positions of social criticism in German and American contemporary art – Hamburg, Germany

Houghton Hall

Pari Ehsan and Francesca Gavin meet with collector Lord David Cholmondeley in King’s Lynn, Norfolk

The Walther Collection

Inside and Outside the Frame – Neu Ulm, Germany

Peter Ibsen Collection

Minimalist Works That Hone Your Sense for Detail – Copenhagen, Denmark

Initiating Dialogues

Sammlung Hoffmann – Berlin, Germany

The Mallin Collection & Buckhorn Sculpture Park

Andrea Denver and Francesca Gavin meet with collectors Sherry and Joel Mallin in Upstate New York

The Agah Uğur Collection

One of the Largest Video Art Collections in Istanbul, Turkey

KA Modern and Contemporary Art Space

900 Square Meters Dedicated to Lebanon’s Most Significant Artists – Beirut, Lebanon

Art About Beauty and Infirmity

Collezione De Iorio – Trento, Italy

Living Collection

Gary Yeh and Francesca Gavin meet with architect and collector William Lim in Hong Kong

Early Passions

Z Collection – Hong Kong, China

Infinite Interiors

Philara Collection – Dusseldorf, Germany

Papko Art Collection

Works of Turkish Modernism at the legendary Ralli Apartment in Istanbul

Risky Business

Astrup Fearnley Museet – Oslo, Norway

Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Pari Ehsan and Francesca Gavin meet with collector Patricia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, Italy

Something Special, Something Sacred

The Goss-Michael Foundation – Dallas, United States of America

JAHM – Justin Art House Museum

Digital and Abstract Art — Melbourne, Australia

A More Democratic Art

MACBA – Museum of Contemporary Art of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Embracing the Accidental

Trajković Collection – Belgrade, Serbia

Galila's P.O.C.

A Collection Made up of Thematic Collections – Brussels, Belgium

Establishing Roots and Creating Links

The Ovidiu Șandor Collection – Timișoara, Romania

Instituto Figueiredo Ferraz

Abstract painting and concept art in Brazil’s interior – São Paulo

Conversation Pieces

KUNSTSAELE Berlin – Berlin, Germany

Magazzino Italian Art

Contemporary Italian Art on the Hudson River – New York

Slow Learning

de la Cruz Collection – Miami, United States of America

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

A venue for contemporary African art – Cape Town

The Elliott Eyes Collection

Engaging With the Collectors – Sydney

Foundation Francès

A French roadtrip reaching the radical reflections of artist Kader Attia

The Sublime Hyacinth Collection

Czech Art Meets Czech Design – Prague, Czech Republic

Marciano Art Foundation

Contemporary art at the Masonic temple – Los Angeles

Time Stamps

Julia Stoschek Collection – Berlin, Germany

Generative Grammars

Servais Family Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Chasing the Future

dslcollection – Paris, France

Charged Atmospheres

Transformer Station – Cleveland, United States of America

Places in, and out of, Time

Adrastus Collection – Arévalo, Spain

Eloquent Silences

The Givon Art Forum – Tel Aviv, Israel

Counting to Ten

Ten Cubed – Melbourne, Australia

Dispersing Narratives

The Wedge Collection – Toronto, Canada

Dialogues in Nature

Chatsworth – Bakewell, Great Britain

Present Pasts

The Feuerle Collection – Berlin, Germany

Space for the Future

The Vanhaerents Art Collection – Brussels, Belgium

Colección Contemporánea

A Global Collection from a Seasoned Art Collector In Mexico City

Adrastus Collection

A Collection That Shows the Diversity of Art in the Age of Globalization – Arevalo, Spain

Masters and Romantics

Collection Lambert – Avignon, France

Fondazione Rolla

A Collection of Modern and Contemporary Photography in Ticino

Finnish Rhapsody

Didrichsen Art Museum – Helsinki, Finland

Cranford Collection

One of Europe’s Most Important Collections with Renowned Contemporaries in Regent’s Park – London

Broad Minded

Artist Tomasz Kobialka on The Broad – Los Angeles, USA

Jean-Paul Najar Foundation

European-American Post-Minimalist Art in a Bauhaus-inspired building – Dubai

Treasure Hunt

The Wanås Foundation/Wanås Konst – Knislinge, Sweden

AMC Collezione Coppola

A Curious Collector Acquiring Art to Broaden his Understanding of the World

A Home for Light and Color

MALBA – Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

Newport Street Gallery

Damien Hirst’s ‘Murderme’ Collection finds a permanent home – London

Franks Suss Collection

A Duo Investing in Artists and Not Cashing In – Hong Kong, London and Sydney

Mallin Collection & Buckhorn Sculpture Park

A Magic Sculpture Garden in Westchester County – Pound Ridge, New York

Shine On

Wurlitzer – Berlin-Pied-à-Terre Collection – Berlin, Germany

Houghton Hall – King's Lynn

Lavish 18th Century interiors juxtaposed with contemporary outdoor sculpture

Venet Foundation

An Artist’s Take on Collecting in the South of France

G2 Kunsthalle

Large-scale paintings of the New Leipzig School in dialogue

The Immaculate Collection

Igal Ahouvi Art Collection – Tel Aviv, Israel


The best of Chinese contemporary art, available 24/7/365

Thoma Foundation

Two intimate art spaces in Chicago and Santa Fe encourage dialogue between work and viewer

Lyon Housemuseum

Located near Melbourne, Australia, collector Corbett Lyon designed the Housemuseum to share it with the public

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

Inhotim – Instituto de Arte Contemporânea e Jardim Botânico

Portraiture Confronting a Land’s Traumatic Past

The Walther Collection – Project Space New York – New York City

Conceptual Authenticity

Sammlung Barbara und Axel Haubrok - haubrok projects - Berlin, Germany

A Self-taught Collector

Vass Collection - Veszprém, Hungary

Roots in Rotterdam

Concordia Collection - Rotterdam, Netherlands

Louvre goes Lens – and Pinault follows

How France’s most established museum and collector are redeveloping forgotten places

History Reinvented

Insights into the influential collection of Martin Parr

A Collection Which Never Sleeps

David Roberts Art Foundation – Great Britain, London

Get Lucky

David Walsh and his MONA

An Eye into a Secret World

SIP Shpilman Institute for Photography – Tel Aviv, Israel

Gifts for Philadelphia

Private collectors with a generous heart

A New Home for Miami’s Art Scene

On the opening of the Jorge M. Pérez Museum

Prima Materia at Punta Della Dogana

François Pinault Foundation - Venice, Italy

Eric and Jean Cass Collection

A private collection goes public

Bernardo Paz’s Transformative Museum

A closer look at Inhotim in Brazil

The Open Road to Jupiter

Robert & Nicky Wilson - Jupiter Artland

Collecting with an Impact

Dakis Joannou - Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art

Menil Collection Makeover

Starting with the parking lot