Perth interior designer Jacquie McPhee’s country house in WA’s south-west is filled with a kaleidoscope of Aboriginal art.
At first, Jacquie McPhee didn’t even tell her closest friends about the new love in her life. She’d emerged from a rocky romantic period with little option but to sell the monastic stone villa she and her previous partner had lovingly created on the Margaret River coastline. It was a magnificent, if not a tad eccentric, building and Jacquie knew that it would take time to find the right owner, and she could build a new home in the region on a block of land she had bought some years previously at Quindalup.
“It was in many aspects a secret affair,” Jacquie takes up her story. “I’d long been interested in Aboriginal culture, but not had the time or the wherewithal to develop it. So I rang Christie’s, Sotheby’s – all the major auction houses that dealt in Aboriginal art – and got all their back catalogues. I would sit up every night until two or three in the morning doing my research, so when I eventually sold the house, I knew exactly which artists I wanted to buy.”
When the house finally did sell, Jacquie was able to move on and build a new life and display space for what is today an extraordinary collection of Aboriginal art. Her home is ablaze with the colourful and intricate works of Australia’s most talented indigenous artists, and practically every inch of wall space is covered with their contributions to an art tradition that is one of the world’s oldest and can trace its foundations back tens of thousands of years. APY Lands (Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankuntjatjara), Papunya Tula, Arnhem Land, Tiwi Islands, Utopia, the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Kimberley … all the major Aboriginal art regions are represented in her collection, as are a smattering of non-indigenous artists including sculptors Russell Sheridan and Bruce Radke and ceramicist Pippin Drysdale.
“I grew up on a dairy farm in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges,” Jacquie says. “I think I was born a collector … as a very small child I collected buttons and lace. When I was about six or seven I became aware of the atrocities committed against the Aboriginal people in Tasmania and for a while I thought I would become a missionary. But then I realised I didn’t have the vocation and so instead I ended up as an ESL teacher in the New Guinea Highlands. I met and married a pilot and he got a job flying out of Perth, so I’ve lived in WA ever since. In 1973 I opened an antique shop in Subiaco and it’s been this merry-go-round I can’t get off ever since. In the mid-80s a client asked me to work on the design for a town on Tipperary station in the Northern Territory. That took three years and really kick-started my career in interior design.”
Read more about Jacqui McPhee’s love affair with Aboriginal art in the May issue of Australian Country magazine, on sale now!