Why collectable design is turning the heads of traditional art lovers

Stephen Todd, Australian financial review, July 21, 2021

Excerpt relating to Sally Dan-Cuthbert


Sydney gallerist Sally Dan-Cuthbert, on the other hand, happily dabbles in both the art and design space. Her Rushcutters Bay gallery boasts a roster of about 20 “functional artists” many of whom – including Trent Jansen and Johnny Nargoodah, Michael Gittings and Edmund Waring – have been featured in these pages, and almost the same number of purely visual artists such as Marion Borgelt.


Her design collectors “are a mix of people who are just understanding collectable design or functional art and, like me, want to have pieces with a story and importantly an artist’s hand,” she says, noting her stable is of “Australian artists and designers who are of international quality but who have remained local”.


Dan-Cuthbert began her career three decades ago as a painting specialist at the Sydney branch of Christie’s, one of the world’s oldest auction houses. Having established a well-heeled client list, in the middle of 2019 she opened her own gallery dedicated not just to fine art but to design. That decision wasn’t made lightly.

“At Christie’s, even though I was in the painting department, as an auction house we were handling furniture, ceramics, textiles and so forth and over the years I’d found myself working in people’s homes,” she says. “So, I’d always been extremely interested in seeing how things come together.”


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Trips to Europe with her collectors brought Dan-Cuthbert into contact with important design galleries including Kreo in Paris and David Gill in London; at the same time, she noted the rise of a new generation of Australian designers whose practice veered close to the art realm, to the extent that the artefacts they produced were becoming blurred.


“It’s been a steep learning curve,” she admits, “but the business is now solid. We’re seeing people who might normally have bought during their overseas travels coming in to see what we’ve got by local designers and, more to the point, excited with what we are exhibiting, and they are acquiring.


“Add to that the role of institutions like the NGV and the National Gallery of Australia in supporting local designers with acquisitions, and the recent announcement that the Powerhouse’s Ultimo site will become a dedicated design museum, and I think we’ve every reason to believe that the Australian collectable design sector will only get stronger.”

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