Sir Bob Jones


Last week I was shown a copy of the Listener from last year. The reason was a four page article in it on a Korean based Kiwi, Adam Ballin, who along with two colleagues has apparently built a very successful international renewable energy business and in the process became wealthy. All credit to him for that.

However, the article was not about that, rather it transpired with his new found wealth, five years ago Adam discovered and became hooked on New Zealand art.

He talked with great assumed authority on this topic and his plans to set up a public gallery to show-case his collection of established New Zealand artist names.

However, what caused much amusement, which was why I was shown the article, was his claim that his 300 plus collection of NZ art is the largest in the world.

Think again sunshine. My collection is about 6000 strong, including I should add, some wonderful Australian paintings.

My company is easily the biggest buyer of New Zealand art for a very good reason, specifically we fill our office buildings with them. And I don’t just refer to the building foyers which usually contain very large paintings we’ve commissioned following discussions with the appropriate artist.

Rather, particularly in Wellington we provide our 400 plus office tenancies and indeed, some of our retail tenants such as restaurants, with art for all of their walls, and not just their foyers.

We deal with galleries across the land who send us photos of their current exhibitions and rare is the week when we don’t make new purchases.

Adam Ballin constantly talked about his collection in monetary terms, thus falling into the trap of basically buying signatures.

Rare is the name artist who hasn’t painted some terrible failures but bang them into an auction and if they’re a McCahon or whatever, sharebroker types and others will snap them up.

There is more nonsense talked about art than any other topic, except perhaps religion.

Those of you who have read my comic novella “Modern Society” will take my point as it wasn’t simply satire but reflected the hard reality of the art world.

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Sir Robert ‘Bob’ Jones — now New Zealand’s largest private office building owner in Wellington and Auckland, and with substantial holdings in Sydney and Glasgow, totalling in excess of two billion...