Et Alia: Two Collections Six Years

'It's been a journey from hills, mountains and rivers, to quite a good understanding of contemporary New Zealand art' that's how Jo Beetham describes the past 18 years of participating in art collecting groups in Wairarapa. Tastes have broadened beyond landscapes to include abstract art and photography, and trips to Tasmania and New York have been part of the mix too.
Beetham's second group, called Et Alia, is currently displaying its collection at Aratoi, alongside that of the Waisculpt art collecting group headed by Barbara Roydhouse.
The impetus for Beetham's first group came from Warwick Brown, who has been collecting NZ art for 45 years. Unlike Waisculpt, Et Alia decided to include artists with no formal training, working in both 3D and 2D, within its purchasing framework.
Back then, research about artists was done 'on foot' with the group often travelling outside Wairarapa to meet artists and curators. The internet made this easier but meeting with artists remained an important part of the process for Et Alia, says Beetham, and led to some of the group's highlights.
'We travelled to New York and spent a half day at Max Gimblett's studio, and also visited photographic artist Jae Hoon Lee during his Wallace Arts Trust residency there.'
'In the early days, photography was a no-no for us but we learnt how important it is in contemporary art and saw it can be more affordable and accessible than many paintings.'  
Connecting personally with artists gave the group a greater understanding of artists' process, the stories behind their work and their relationships with galleries, and a number plan to follow certain artists' careers after the group disbands in late February.
While only one member of the 12 strong Et Alia group was interested in buying art as an investment, some of their early purchases have in fact gained dramatically in value, says Beetham, who puts this down to their in-depth research which led them to spot unique, distinctive work.
'We've learnt that even if you don't like something, a 'good' work talks to you, it sings, you can't walk past it. We've been willing to take a punt on some very challenging work, even when we didn't quite understand it.'
An event for those interested in art collecting groups is being planned for February, so watch this space.
'Waisculpt and Et Alia: Two Collections Six Years', until 24 February.

Clockwise from left - Images from Et Alia's art collecting adventures: Work by Andre Hemer, and Joanna Braithwaite (detail). Max Gimblett at work in his studio, and exploring a gallery in New York.