Interview with Corbett Lyon
Lyon Housemuseum – Melbourne, Australia
How important is having the title of being a “collector” to you?
We have never considered ourselves “collectors” in the sense of acquiring and owning works in our collection. We view ourselves more as custodians of the works and as long term supporters of Australian art practice.
Does your collection follow a specific theme or particular artists?
We have been collecting for over 27 years and have followed many artists in depth. We currently have 53 artists represented in the collection. It has no single underlying theme but embraces different aspects of the contemporary world – the contemporary city, impacts of new technologies, cultural politics and other contemporary issues.
Do you have a personal relationship with the artists you collect?
We have developed close relationships with all the artists we have supported over this time and many have become good friends. It has enabled us to follow their evolving practices closely, and to bring works into the collection at key points in their development.
Is there an artwork that you love but can’t live with due to size, medium, or value?
So far, we have been able to accommodate all works on our “acquisition list”, and these have varied greatly in size, medium and value. We are currently constructing a new public museum next door to the original Housemuseum where we will be able to show large works and installations.
In your opinion, what mistakes do young collectors do new collectors make? And what mistake did you make when first starting on your collecting journey?
The biggest mistake new collectors make is moving too quickly to acquire works. The advice I was given when I started out was to spend a year visiting galleries and museums to see what is out there, and only then to begin to acquire works.
What has the reaction been like from visitors of your collection since making it publicly accessible? Does this reaction impact you and what you collect?
We now have visitors coming to the Housemuseum from all over the world including museum directors, curators, art lovers and members of the public who are interested in seeing the Housemuseum's combination of a residential home and a public art museum. Visitors are always interested to see a personal, idiosyncratic collection which represents something about the mind of the collectors and the group of artists, and works, which make up the collection. It is very different from viewing works in a public collection. I had my first experience of this visiting the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice many years ago – it was a revelation to see her collection and to learn about her as a collector and the connections that she had with all of the artists that she collected.
Where do you find out about artists that you are interested in purchasing?
We identify new artists through galleries we visit, through word-of-mouth and by visiting public galleries and museums. All the works in our collection are acquired from the primary market – through the artists and their representative galleries.
Which publicly accessible private collection would you recommend visiting?
My favourite private collection is still the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. We visited it several weeks ago and it remains an astonishing collection by one of the world's most extraordinary collectors. And all of it presented in the domestic setting of Guggenheim's Grand Canal palazzo.