An Introduction

An introduction to my pages on Parting with Your Art
This page uploaded 27 June 2020,  last update 28 Jan 2023


I retired as Senior Curator, Photography, National Gallery of Australia, in late 2014. I spent the next few years doing quite a few essays and valuations for Singapore and European museums on 19th and early 20th c Southeast Asia photography.

Few researchers are willing to tackle national surveys  at all let alone such a disparate cultural and geographic region  as the Asia-Pacific. So I have had the field a bit to myself. The postgrads are I hope lining up to explore specific topics at great depth.

Along the way my partner Paul Costigan became fascinated with Singapore, Indonesian and Japanese vernacular studio portraiture. It seems to me looking at that collection, has a certain dynamic and longevity in Asia compared to EuroAmerica. Happy to be challenged. A part of that collection is currently on offer to the National Museum of Singapore. Finding Australian archives with an interest in the social history of  Asian studio portraits, is proving a challenge. The Japanaese collection is over 300 works.

Over the last year or two I have been disbursing the large library and photo collections we have built over decades — in my case since the early 70s.

The experience of being a museum curator, then valuer, seller and donor to museums and libraries has been quite a ‘journey’.

The first thing I discovered is that there is not a lot of information online  for people with collections and who aren’t au fait with the options or processes involved in placing by sale or gift, their treasures in new homes.

I have had a rush of responses so far , particularly from photographers about their own archives. So options for ‘parting with your art’ (or art library) is of interest.

Why am I doing this? Awhile back — after a few of my contemporaries passed away — I thought Id rather know where my stuff was going and not leave it to others. Like bush fires its best to have a plan as life doesn’t always go quite as expected. But it is also emotional as the books are also about aspirations and seeming to erase my personal history.

I have to face the fact that I am not going to be writing on certain topics and really don’t need elaborate reference works. If I do i’ll go to the library.

It has been a challenge to find homes for books and prints and the amount of work is the same for gifts and purchases.

There has been grief as a work is removed from a wall and temptations of running down the street after the art truck saying ‘stop Ive changed my mind’. Books departing are a wistful but reassurring.

I will start posting some tips and guidelines but my  own and others’  solutions in parting with their own art,  library or  collections.


the above photograph was taken while I was looking towards the beach on which Max Dupain took the Sunbaker.

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