Rose Knox-Peebles, London - MEET THE COLLECTOR Series Part Three
I met the collector Rose Knox-Peebles whilst I was working at Pallant House Gallery a few years ago, and since then have stayed in contact with her. Her house in Hove that she talks about below is quite incredible, and it backs out onto the sea, which is never a bad thing! Rose collects Contemporary, Outsider and Modern British Art, so differs to some of the other collectors that I have interviewed. Enjoy …
1. When did your interest in the field of outsider art begin?
I became interested in outsider art without realising that it was different from any other art; that it was a way of describing a kind of art, like American Expressionism or Surrealism or Renaissance.
2. When did you become a collector of this art? And what is your background?
I bought my first paintings from Víctor Musgrave at Gallery One in 1963. He introduced me to the work of Sturgess Lief and Scottie Wilson. From the Circle Gallery I bought paintings by John ‘Sundance’ King, T.H. Smith and others.
In 2009 I lent some Scottie Wilson’s to Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, and from then became very happily involved with Outside In and started to collect this very special art again. I have very little background in art. At school, we had an excellent art mistress who organised trips to public collections in London and generally encouraged all the arts. After I left school, I went to the Byam Shaw School of Art, but only stayed a short time.
3. What is it that draws your eye away from contemporary art to outsider art? Or do you collect both?
I collect Contemporary, Outsider and Modern British Art; also kinetic art including neon – I buy what I like and I have very catholic tastes – ranging from exceptionally ‘noisy’ paintings of rock music by David Oxtoby, to very quiet paintings like landscapes and portraits.
4. What style of work, if any, is of particular interest to you within this field? (for example is it embroidery, drawing, sculpture, and so on)
I am most interested in painting and drawing, but I also collect textile artists and sculpture, with works by Anna Maria Patecco, Timothy Shaw, Kate Bradford and Cathie Pilkington. I started collecting sculpture when I ran out of space on the walls for paintings (I have one painting on the ceiling for this reason and will probably end up with a lot more there). Kinetic art is great fun; I have amazingly intricate pieces by Tim Lewis and beautiful light pieces by Peter Sedgley
5. Would you say you had a favourite artist or piece of work within your collection? And why?
I don’t have a favourite artist – could one say one had a favourite child? They are so varied and I love them for what they are – gentle or ferocious, clever or simple – each painting or sculpture I have bought has a ‘hook’ that has grabbed me.
6. Is there an exhibition in this field of art that you have felt has been particularly important? And why?
The collection that I shall always remember was the Prinzhorn, exhibited at the Hayward gallery decades ago. I remember particularly the obsessive drawings made of tiny writing, that filled pages – I have four such contemporary works – two by Carlo Keshishian and two by Nick Blinko.
7. Where would you say you buy most of your work from: a studio, art fairs, exhibitions, or direct from artists?
I buy most work from Galleries I have known for decades; I buy a lot from friends who are artists; I have bought Outsider Art from artists whose work I have seen on the Outside In website. I have bought from Fairs, but in these cases it has been from galleries or dealers I know.
8. In September 2018 Susan Moore interviewed you for Apollo Magazine. Can you tell us about that interview and how it came about?
Charles Rolls, Chairman of Outside In, suggested the Interview with Susan Moore. I liked her very much and I liked her writing style; not at all pompous. I was amazed to discover how many kinds of art and artists she is able to write about – encyclopedic knowledge!
9. You keep most of your outsider art collection in your house in Hove – is there a reason that you divide your collection and keep these ones here? Can you tell people reading this a bit about your house in Hove, after all it did feature on Grand Designs!
The house is called The Narrow House – It is tall and thin. Just outside there is a chewing gum painting by Ben Wilson and on the wall ‘The Narrow House’ carved by Lida Cardoza Kindersley. The ground floor is like a wide corridor with sculptures and an 8 foot wall hanging. The spare room has blinds designed by Chris Hipkiss. The first floor is the living area with blinds designed by Rebecca Forster and the second floor is the bedroom area with blinds by Chris Kenny. The blinds in the study are by Richard Cook. The bath is in the bedroom behind a screen by Angus Fairhurst. We have a tiny TV room with two seats from the Theatre Royal Brighton when they were refurbishing; the big window there is closed by a mesh screen with pictures.
I keep the contemporary, outsider art and kinetic art at Hove because the house is modern and it and the art suit each other. The house was my one chance to create something myself, and it is, given the very limited space, very cleverly designed by the architects Sanei Hopkins. There were also long delays and this allowed us to refine the design so that it did not have an ounce of spare flesh on it but was totally one of a kind and beautiful. The architects were great to work with and humoured my desire to hang and display as much art as possible. We cribbed Sir John Soane’s idea of panels that opened so as to display even more, also sliding ‘pocket’ doors on which paintings could hang on both sides (the panels and the pocket doors are made from a mesh that galleries use to store paintings and the walls of the rooms are lined with the mesh).
Every scrap of space is used: I have built stacks under a bunk bed that crossed the width of the spare room, the inside of cupboard doors either have pictures or Chapman Brothers’ wallpaper on them.
10. Would you ever make a book about your collection? Or have an exhibition of it anywhere?
A book of the collection would be nice to have, but either it would be enormous or I would have to choose between the works that are in it and those that aren’t - it would be like Solomon and the baby. I would not have an exhibition of my Modern British works, though I am happy to lend them to public galleries – they get to travel and be seen, which is good.
11. As you have a large collection now, what sort of pieces are you looking to continue to add to your collection?
I’m always adding artworks to my collection – collecting is a vice. However, I now only buy very small works, as I have no space left though I always find room for one more…