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Bubble Artefacts Oceanic Tribal Art Gallery
Collector Series Interview
I have met many collectors in my time but none come close to the enthusiasm, passion and integrity of my next interviewee. He has kept me entertained for many years and had me damn near rolling on the floor in laughter so many times its not funny! Over the years, although we have never physical met (unless skype counts?) we have become very, very good friends. Our passion for New Guinea arts compliment each other and I thoroughly enjoy our conversations each and every time. I hold this English gentleman in very high regard, he is none other than Pat Vincent from the United Kingdom.
WC - In one word how would you describe yourself?
PV - Enthusiast
WC - Approx. how many pieces do you have in your collection of New Guinea Tribal Art?
PV - 140, growing….
WC - Can you recall the first time you came across Oceanic Art?
PV - Yes
WC - 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?
PV - I was in The Forest of Dean in England, and it was whilst visiting my friends who had been working for the PNG Police Force. They had returned with a collection of confiscated arrows, and I would marvel at them every time I visited; carefully handling them, turning them, and thinking of their history, the craftsmanship in making them and the stories they could tell.
WC - What was the first artefact you purchased and what made you want to buy it?
PV - It was a ‘batwoman’ carving which I found in PNG Arts in Port Moresby, 1993. Again, it was all about the imagination, and my wanting to bring back a piece from this country which I considered to embrace everything still wild, exciting, dangerous and undiscovered.I learnt subsequently that it was designed to protect women from abusive men, although that was of little consolation to my partner who never really grew into loving it as I did, in the corner of the bedroom.
WC - When did you realise you had earned the title of “Collector”?
PV - That was a very gradual realisation to be honest. But the more pieces I amassed, the more I felt I was succeeding in driving out some of the loathsome aspects of domestication and blandness from my home and life. For reference by the way, I relate more to enthusiast than collector.
WC - What is your most treasured ‘find’ and where and when did you find it?
PV - Please hold on while I go for a wander….the trouble is that I now embrace these pieces as a communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects; this makes this question even harder to answer. However, if pushed, I will go for a vintage battle shield from the Western Highlands. It is identical to those pre-contact ones which were used in a mock battle in the early 1930s, and which were subsequently burned. I marvel how the design has prevailed until more recent times. It has its full complement of embedded arrow tips.
You may well get a different answer if you ask me again tomorrow!
WC - What methods to you use to find pieces for your collections – i.e. charity shops, online, auctions, garage sales?
PV - Initially eBay, but I have moved almost exclusively to direct purchases from dealers, predominantly in America, France, Australia, and Germany. Notably absent are the United Kingdom and Papua New Guinea!
WC - What mistakes have you made with collecting and what can your experience teach new collectors out there?
PV - Paying over the odds, without question. I was on my own, buying what I liked and not really knowing what things were worth, and how genuine some pieces were. That said, I still like everything I have purchased, but I think that it is very difficult to shrug off a feeling of distaste of being somewhat duped. However, it is all part of the journey which I fully accept. I feel I am wiser and more knowledgeable now and have a good circle of friends and dealers to poll for opinions. I would like to add here that it is as much about the community of collectors, dealers and enthusiasts as the items themselves; same with most hobbies I guess.
WC - What other advice would you give to new collectors?
PV - There is no hurry. But when you do know what you want, don’t hesitate for too long! And enjoy the whole journey. Buy some good reference books. And immerse yourself in a guilt-free fantastic journey of discovery.
WC - What are your three top tips for getting a good deal on a piece you love?
PV - Keep offers respectful, engage in dialogue with the sellers, and be cautious but not too cautious! Remember, it is all about having fun.
WC - What are you most passionate about collecting now?
PV - Battle shields from The Highlands. I love the variety, the clan motifs, the overall diversity of shapes and forms, and the sense of wild spirit which they convey to me.
WC - Where do you see the New Guinea Arts industry going in the future?
PV - I would like to see it gain even more international recognition that it undoubtedly deserves. I would love some collectors to fully appreciate that good quality pieces are simply that, and do not need endless discussions surrounding good or fake, whatever that really means! All good fun though (there is, of course, room for us all). It is now all about how things make us feel and how they light our imaginations. It is also about supporting the diversity of vibrant cultures which exist today, and their associated arts and crafts.
WC - Has the use of technology made it easier or harder to buy pieces? If so, how?
PV - So far definitely, by giving me access to a world market (this could, of course, go against me when the Oceanic arts market gains momentum). Facebook groups have added another dimension of joy.
WC - Give 5 words that describe the emotion when you sit in a room with your collection?
PV - Hidden (from the chaos of the outside world), relaxed (great place to indulge in a cup of tea, and my other great hobby, thinking!, alive (as opposed to living), joy (from deep within my soul), stimulation (of the imagination). I would have to add a 6th, privileged; privileged to have stumbled upon this whole exciting hobby and for the new friends I have made along the way. And never forgetting, privileged to be the custodian of some wonderful pieces of cultural significance.
WC - Any final words?
PV - This can be a very addictive hobby so never forget to take the time to fully appreciate what you have, whist you are immersed in your quest to track down what you haven’t.
If you haven't had the pleasure of talking to Pat, feel free to say 'hello' anytime. He is truly one of the friendliest people I have met in this world to date. A passionate advocate behind the Bubble Artefacts - Facebook - Oceanic Ethnographic Discussion Group:- https://www.facebook.com/groups/394016997987349 - Pat can be found engaging and discussing the Oceanic arts here most days.
Many thank for your time once again Pat,
Warren Campbell, Executive Director, Bubble Artefacts