Australian Alan Cleary Never Bought a Work for more than $10,000 but he has amassed a collection of more than 200 works. His secret was to focus on small works:
Over a 30-year period Cleary has picked up more than 200 original works by a range of artists including Giles Auty, Adam Cullen, Lucy Culliton, Brian Dunlop, James Gleeson, Chris O’Doherty, Ricky Swallow and Roland Wakelin. Most of these are in the emerging artists category – a few, such as Gleeson, are getting close to blue chip status. All their work is predicted to increase in value, if it hasn’t already. Most of these artists are starting to appear regularly on the secondary (auction) market and their work is fetching healthy amounts.
In Cleary’s case, it helped that after an early interest in traditional landscapes he became a fan of contemporary art and was able to buy original work by unknown artists at their first shows. Some have achieved fame, some have not.
Yet by using his small-is-better formula he was also able to buy paintings by established artists such as Wendy Sharpe, the winner of the Archibald Prize in 1996. He snapped up two small original oils in 1997, the year after her victory when the value of her work was near its peak. As they were small, he paid just $750 each for them. He has had them valued recently about $2500 each.
The God of Small Things (Sydney Morning Herald)