Coast’s Hidden Treasure
Hidden away in the Sunshine Coast hinterland is one of the largest private art collections in Australia. From Aboriginal art to pottery, books, toys and ancient artefacts, Ken Hinds’ imposing gallery has to be seen to be believed.
Deep in the Sunshine Coast hinterland there is a national treasure. Many of us are completely oblivious to its existence, and only those who dare to tread beyond the commercial tourist trap – and of course, lovers of fine art – will stumble upon it.
It’s the Ken Hinds Cultural Heritage Collection. Housed in a two-storey private gallery at Mt Mellum, it’s recognised as one of the most “significant” art collections in Australia.
A retired engineer, Ken Hinds’ collection has more than 30,000 items including a vast collection of toys, pottery, books, ancient artefacts from around the globe, and more than 3000 Australian works of art.
There was always art in his house. He started collecting in a small way, firstly with Australian art, moving to pottery, toys and then Aboriginal art”
Talking on Ken’s behalf due to a recent illness, partner Juliet Pegler says Ken grew up with art in the home, and started his own collection in the late 1980s, when he was 20.
“There was always art in his house. He started collecting in a small way, firstly with Australian art, moving to pottery, toys and then Aboriginal art,” says Juliet.
“What he’s tried to do is buy a representative piece from artists who have won the major art prizes like the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman – ones that have been painted by the particular artist who won.
“Then he got right into the indigenous works and has pieces by many of the famous artists.”
These artists include; Clifford Possom Tjapaltjarri, who is considered one of the most collected and renowned Australian Aboriginal artists, Gloria Petyarre who is internationally acclaimed for her bush medicine leaf paintings, and Emily Kame Kngwarreye who is one of the most prominent and successful artists in the history of contemporary indigenous art.
Ken’s home even boasts paintings by Albert Namatjira and Otto Pareroultja and his brothers, Ruben and Edwin; their striking work in watercolour depicting outback landscapes.
“In the 1980s, there were a number of people who actually came out of the desert, and they were known as ‘the last of the nomads’. Three of the brothers, Warlimpirrnga, Walala and Thomas, are very fine artists. We have paintings by them.”
Other Australian artists in Ken’s collection include modernist artist Albert Tucker and influential figurative painter Robert Dickerson.
Then there’s the respected works of Arthur Boyd, Brett Whiteley, Sidney Nolan, Ray Crooke, and Nora Heysen to name a few.
Juliet says Ken was drawn to Aboriginal art because of its colour and heritage.
It’s one of the best you could possibly see in Australia. Some people say it may rival Janet Holmes à Court’s collection"
“He just liked it, the movement in it, the colours; he has met a lot of the artists and sat with them while they painted.”
In 1999 Ken travelled to Alice Springs and for the first time was able to spend time with the artists whose works he was collecting.
Ken even visited the vast tracts of the Western Desert, experiencing first-hand the stories behind the paintings, which later came to grace his walls.
This personal contact and love of their works moved Ken’s collection into a whole new dimension as he acquired an extensive number of canvases; often of large and impressive scale.
Susan McCulloch, author of The Encyclopaedia of Australia Art, curated one of Ken’s collections that exhibited at the Caloundra Regional Gallery and toured Australia.
“Susan thinks Ken’s collection is one of the most significant private collections she has ever seen,” says Julie. “It’s one of the best you could possibly see in Australia. Some people say it may rival Janet Holmes à Court’s collection (one of Australia’s wealthiest women, whose internationally-renowned collection has more than 4000 works, many of them being culturally significant). When you see it, it is quite amazing.”
Ken – who as it turns out is related to famous Australian art family, the Percevals – grew up in New South Wales and later became a highly-intelligent, multi-disciplined engineer who was well-respected by his peers and his community.
Ken spent decades working on multi-million dollar construction projects, while nurturing a passion for collecting artworks and contributing to the community.
He is also an Honorary Fellow of the University of the Sunshine Coast and supports many local artists; his collection featuring works by Peter Hudson, Kevin Oxley, Rex Backhaus-Smith, Judith Laws, Nan Patterson, and others.
Ken bought most of his pieces at auctions and continues to collect today, but admits things have slowed a little over time. His private collection has toured regional galleries across Australia and universities.
The Ken Hinds Cultural Heritage Collection is open to the public and is free of charge, but viewings are by appointment only.