Jim & Mary Barr

Jim Barr and Mary Barr are some of the most significant contemporary art collectors and commentators on contemporary art in New Zealand. Based in Wellington, they have developed a passion for meeting artists and visiting and photographing their studios as a visual record. They are regular lenders to public art galleries, and shared with VAULT something of their vision.

written by Alison Kubler FEBRUARY 2020

Can you tell me a bit about your ethos as collectors? What began your collecting journey?
As Jim had been to art school, we had personal links with artists right from the start. A couple of them, Phil Clairmont and Tony Fomison, were among the first people we purchased works by. We also visited their studios as often as we could, and it was relationships like these that were to become hugely important to our thinking about art. Later, as independent curators, we continued to have great access to artists and their studios so if we have an ethos, that would be where it lies – in our fascination with the process of making art. You can check out some of the photos we’ve taken in studios over the years at

Do you have a particular focus, or a favourite medium?
Like most collectors who started in the 1970s, we primarily looked at paintings but, by the end of the decade, we’d connected with Peter Peryer’s work and that opened up photography to us. We bought a few 3D works – Neil Dawson and Lillian Budd, for instance– but it wasn’t until later, when we moved into a very large open space, that we could expand our growing excitement about sculpture. That said, over the past two decades we haven’t really thought much in terms of ‘media’. We’re interested in whatever artists want to deal with so we have works made in bronze, in glass, in plaster, in fabric, in concrete, in brick, in stainless steel et cetera, et cetera. You can add to that customised readymade objects, videos and found objects, plus some framed . .. Subscribe to read this article in full


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MCA NGVMuseum of BrisbaneAGSA Art Gallery of New South WalesMetro