Living/Loving: Love of Country

IF ABORIGINAL ART DEALER NICHOLA DARE ISN’T BEATING AROUND THE OUTBACK IN A 4-WHEEL DRIVE, SHE IS VERY HAPPY TO BE IN HER HOME- CUM-GALLERY IN SYDNEY’S WAVERLEY. HELEN MCKENZIE WRITES. PHOTOGRAPHY BY JONATHAN CAMI.

Nichola Dare with her much-loved Owl painting Dumbuny by Mabel Juli.

Nichola Dare with her much-loved Owl painting Dumbuny by Mabel Juli.

ART DEALER NICHOLA DARE’s home brings a new meaning to the concept of “living above the shop”. 10 years ago, London-born Nichola established the Indigenous art gallery Aboriginal Contemporary after buying All Hand Made, the Bronte Road ceramics gallery founded by Helen Stephens. Architect Virginia Wong-See adapted the original 1861 sandstone worker’s cottage and added a two-floor apartment to the rear of the building for Helen. The warm sandstone walls of the gallery, the poured concrete floors throughout, the high ceilings and the clever use of natural light are all reminders that great design does not have to be grand design.

Wire sculptures by Jonny Young sit on the kitchen bench.

Wire sculptures by Jonny Young sit on the kitchen bench.

Nichola was thrilled to find a property that could double as a beautiful home for her young family and the perfect setting to display and sell the art she sources direct from Indigenous art centres. “It is a wonderful place to live. I love the smooth wooden handrail over the rough concrete stairs and the place has incredible light,” says Nichola, who shares the space with her 11- and 14-year-old daughters (and a well-chosen art collection).

As a dealer, Nichola confesses that it is often hard to sell work she admires. One such piece is a painting of an owl by Mabel Juli sourced from Warmun Art Centre in The Kimberley. “It sat in the gallery for a while and I loved it, but I was just setting up the business and thought ‘I can’t start buying up all the work’. Then a guy came in and he was very serious about buying it. I woke up the next morning and like a childthought, ‘you can’t have it,’ and I bought it!”

The much-loved owl now hangs above the sofa, beside a work by Melbourne graffiti artist Ghost Patrol. A portrait in oil by American artist Paul Brown, gifted to Nichola by her father, is above the stairs. “People are quite cautious about mixing styles, I say don’t worry about that as long as the tone works. I call my collection thoughtfully eclectic,” she says with a laugh.

Aboriginal Contemporary does not operate on a rotating exhibition schedule; rather Nichola has ongoing relationships with a number of Indigenous art centres that specialise in a variety of artistic endeavours. This means you will find a selection of small ceramic works by Ernabella Arts from the APY Lands, Tjanpi Desert Weaver animals, pandanus work from Arnhem Land and paintings from a number of different communities. The paintings range in price from $150 for works 30 by 30 centimetres to $5,000 for large works.

Nichola warns buyers should be very careful before purchasing Ab- original art; “Don’t feel bad about grilling a seller about the provenance of a work. The two key questions to ask are: Is the gallery a member of the Indigenous Art Code? And what Art Centre is the work from?”

Nichola’s favourite part of the year is the time she spends in remote communities. “I get behind the 4-wheel drive and I know that for the next two weeks I get my life blood back. I have an extraordinary attachment to Country.”

Peggy Brown’s Fire Country Dreaming (left) and Zara Chancellor’s Holkholm (right) are propped alongside family photos. On the wall, (clockwise from top) Kathleen Ngale’s Bush Plum, Rosie Taco King’s Jairnka and Craigie Aitchison’s Bird Candle.

Peggy Brown’s Fire Country Dreaming (left) and Zara Chancellor’s Holkholm (right) are propped alongside family photos. On the wall, (clockwise from top) Kathleen Ngale’s Bush Plum, Rosie Taco King’s Jairnka and Craigie Aitchison’s Bird Candle.

On the left, a limited edition etching by Mabel Juli. On the right, a limited edition etching by Lena Nyadbi.

On the left, a limited edition etching by Mabel Juli. On the right, a limited edition etching by Lena Nyadbi.

Related Stories

In Armadale House, a collection heavy with Indigenous art is met with lush textures and custom furniture.

Project Sheet: First Instincts

Designer Simone Haag trusted her intuition to decorate this Melbourne home filled with Indigenous art, custom-made furniture and doses of personality.
In the kitchen, the industrial palette of the pacific marble island bench and David Groppi pendant light is o set by the colour pop of the Raf Simons love seat.

Project Sheet: Sanctuary Above the Trees

Arent&Pyke create an elevated sanctuary filled with pastel tones, personal touches, and a sizeable collection of Australian and Korean art.
As its name would suggest, Palm Beach evokes a tranquil home-away-from-home atmosphere.

Project Sheet: Paris by the Sea

Palm Beach House matches a minimalist French aesthetic with an art collection that expresses fun, youthfulness, and a passion for craftsmanship.
SJB director of interiors, Andrew Parr, has a penchant for bold pieces. Here, he stands in front of Hazel Dooney’s Dangerous Career Babe – The Terrorist.

Living/Loving: Clash of the Walls

High contrast, pops of colour and large-scale artworks invigorate the interiors of Andrew Parr’s residence.
Two works by Greg Wood are propped in the living space.

Project sheet: A deeper meaning

SWEE LIM IMPARTS HER LOVE OF FINE ART TO HER CLIENTS, BRINGING EMOTION, ENERGY AND EXPRESSION INTO EVERY SPACE.
A custom-made ringlight by B.E Architecture hangs above the dining table. A work by Heather B. Swann hangs on the wall next to a wall sculpture by Mark Hilton.

Project Sheet: Journey to Discovery

B.E ARCHITECTURE INTRODUCED THIS HOMEOWNER TO NEW IDEAS AND ARTISTS, TO CREATE A COLLECTION THAT REMAINS MEANINGFUL AND MEMORABLE.

Related Artworks

Kate Bender, Into His Fiery Heart. Oil on canvas, 84 x 152cm.
Kate Bender, Only the Wind Sings