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Bubble Artefacts Oceanic Tribal Art Gallery

Collector Series Interview


David Houston

Based in Scotland, David is an avid collector of New Ireland carvings among his considerable art collection and someone I would classify as a sophisticated, polished and astute collector. David knows what he likes and has a fantastic eye for quality pieces.  I thoroughly enjoy our conversations from worlds apart. David has extensively traveled, has many captivating stories and has even been to Sir David Attenborough's home to see his collection! I am in awe.


WC - In one word how would you describe yourself?

DH - Harmless!


WC - Approx. how many pieces do you have in your collection of New Guinea Tribal Art?

DH - About 10, mostly New Ireland


WC - Can you recall the first time you came across Oceanic Art?

If so, where were you, what artefact was it and what was your response – was it love at first sight, or did it take some time to grab you?

DH - I have always loved museums, and they sparked my interest.I was a student at Oxford University in the UK, where they have an amazing museum ( the Pitt Rivers ) which permanently led me astray.


WC - What was the first artefact you purchased and what made you want to buy it?

DH - My first purchase was when I was at school and used my limited pocket money to buy a fine Fijian throwing club in a junk shop – it was a very long time ago and the shop owner did not know what it was. I still have it.


WC - When did you realise you had earned the title of “Collector”?

DH - When the relatives started complaining about the amount of ‘clutter’ in the house.


WC - What is your most treasured ‘find’ and where and when did you find it?

DH - I don’t really have a particular treasure, but I never buy anything unless it gives me real pleasure to look at every day.


WC - What methods to you use to find pieces for your collections – i.e. charity shops, online, auctions, garage sales?

DH - I started collecting by visiting Portobello Market in London, which many decades ago had some very knowledgeable dealers who sold at reasonable prices. I find you really need to handle items to learn about them. Nowadays we are often stuck with buying from websites, when the photographs can make it difficult to assess things so well. I keep an eye on the tribal art fairs and big auction houses, but their prices usually put me off.


WC - What mistakes have you made with collecting and what can your experience teach new collectors out there?

DH - I think if you collect you should accept that you will make occasional mistakes, especially buying from websites, and not worry too much about it.


WC - What other advice would you give to new collectors?

DH - I would never dream of giving advice to others. But my approach has always been to only buy items that really do give me pleasure. I never buy anything because it might be a ‘good investment’’.


WC - What are your three top tips for getting a good deal on a piece you love?

DH - I am not really interested in getting a ‘good deal’. Quality items are quite scarce now, and I think if you really fall in love with something, and can afford it, you should buy ( within reason! ). I do not like haggling over price – either buy it as offered, or don’t.


WC - What are you most passionate about collecting now?

DH - My interests have not really changed. I mostly like everyday objects which were made as prestige items and have a sculptural or artistic quality to them – baskets, pottery, shields, staffs, headrests etc.They were made just because they gave the original owner real pleasure to use every day.


WC - Where do you see the New Guinea Arts industry going in the future?

DH - Not sure I know enough about New Guinea to comment. But some of the big international dealers are starting to sell New Guinea items at very high prices. I suspect this will continue because the supply of quality other Oceanic items is now very limited.


WC - Has the use of technology made it easier or harder to buy pieces? If so, how?

DH - Both. Easier because you can now access auctions and dealers anywhere online. But harder because there is less opportunity to handle a wide range of objects to learn about them, and we have to rely more on photographs.


WC - Give 5 words that describe the emotion when you sit in a room with your collection?

DH - Fascination at the universal need for artistic expression.


WC - Any final words

DH - I have been incredibly lucky to work in many different countries, and collecting is one way of retaining happy memories of other cultures. And it makes it rewarding to read and learn about the huge variety of human cultures.


Many thanks to David for doing the interview. A truly wonderful man with a gentle soul. I look forward to our next chat.

Kind regards,

Warren Campbell

Executive Director

Bubble Artefacts Oceanic Art Gallery