Collecting – a passionate pursuit

Robert and Ruth Parker at the opening of Collectorium on Newcastle

When Robert and Ruth Parker finally bit the bullet and opened their antique, art and collectables store in August last year it had been a long time coming. Collectorium on Newcastle was a culmination of years spent acquiring fascinating objects and art. A third generation antique collector and dealer, one of Robert’s early memories is of his grandfather setting off to Paris with a framed oil painting tucked under his arm. Likewise, Ruth grew up surrounded by beautiful late Victorian/early Edwardian furniture, ceramics and mantle clocks.

This Canberra based couple have spent years collecting and observing the antique market, but had held back from opening up shop as the timing had not felt quite right. Fortunately for the Canberran cultural scene, last year provided the opportunities for the Collectorium to emerge when they saw a need for a combined antiques and art venue.

With an eclectic assortment of art and objects ranging from furniture, exotic glass, militaria, clocks, jewellery, silverware, painting and sculpture from many eras, the Collectorium’s primary purchasing focus is on quality, appeal, intrinsic worth, good design and impeccable execution. Like many canny collectors, they don’t see personal taste as vital in their choices, however a good gut feeling is essential. Everyone has different tastes, so purchasing and selling only what they personally like is not seen as a smart option. Robert and Ruth feel that their instincts have proven to be an excellent barometer for choice and have not been let down yet.

Bernard Hesling Plate
Bernard Hesling Plate

With such a diverse assortment of wares, display and placement within the shop can be a challenge. Robert says “We do however try to theme the areas within the shop. It can be uneconomic as regards use of space, but we do not put Art Deco beside Georgian for example. If grouped sympathetically all the items are enhanced.” “This enables clients to visualise how items might look in their own home.”

The motivation of buyers that enter the Collectorium is varied. Some come with a specific quest, while others simply browse and pounce when their attention is captured. An observation Robert makes, is that sometimes a potential customer cannot decide and will go away to ponder their decision. Unfortunately this can backfire and by the time they return, the object will have made it’s way to another home. He feels that due to the unique nature of the items in the Collectorium, if an object makes a good fit, and feels right at the time – follow your gut and buy it then and there. People who do their research and understand the value of the objects are generally comfortable with the price – they know the worth of their purchase and appreciate what they are buying. Unfortunately “problems occur if a client is looking for Grange quality at cask department prices.”

Sometimes purchasing can be about investment and looking at resale value, rather than enjoyment, however ultimately “If you have to live with something intimately, it really needs to be something you can enjoy. How miserable to have to hang something in your home which you do not like but which is deemed to be a good investment. Consign it to the guest room perhaps?” Purchasing and collecting art and objects that speak to the buyer should be a priority, and in these instances the value is priceless.

Ruth and her perpetual advisor, Turner
Ruth and her perpetual advisor, Turner

At the back of the Collectorium lies part of the National Museum of Erotica Collection offering a cheeky peek into the art and history of erotica in Australia. Visitors reactions are many and varied – from giggles and excitement through to “No, we are not kinky people.” Generally those who emerge from the room wear a smile on their faces, despite possibly requiring some gentle persuasion to enter.

With the combined efforts of Robert, Ruth and Turner (the major decision maker in the team), the Collectorium is becoming another great success story. A mixture of instinct, aesthetic, quality and laborious research has created a fascinating collection well worth exploring. While you can visit their website to preview some of their items, it is always best to visit the shop and see them in the flesh.

Unit 5, The Lyell Centre 151 Newcastle Street, Fyshwick ACT 2609 Open Thursday to Monday 11am to 5pm Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment