He may be one of Australia’s most respected collectors of 20th Century pieces with an eponymous store in Melbourne’s Cremorne, but that doesn’t stop Geoffrey Hatty from scrabbling through the hard rubbish on his street.
Geoffrey recently came up with a sideboard from the house opposite him that he sold for $4000. It’s not good luck, in his case, but rather a knowledge of his craft that spans over three decades. “For me to go into an op shop is different from someone else,” he says. “I can scan it in five minutes to see if there’s anything of worth in there. But it’s not all about money. I buy something because it’s an interesting object. It’s about love from the heart.”
Although he says he’s been a collector all his life, Geoffrey fell into his career by happenstance. After a rural upbringing, he moved to Melbourne at 18 to pursue hairdressing and fell into collecting after amassing inexpensive furnishings for his share house. “Because I was dyslexic, I couldn’t go through university, but I did become a great lateral thinker,” he says. “I also started to define my taste – I’d start by looking at something that had been produced with care and consideration and be curious to know more about it.” His pieces don’t revolve around a single theme; ceramics, furniture, music and art are all part of his personal collections.
But, even when gathering things for himself, he has certain rules. He won’t buy something unless it has a designated place. He doesn’t like pairs of things; instead, he adheres to the rule of three. “Two is not enough to understand the variety,” he says. And he doesn’t want to purchase anything with an inflated reputation. “You’ve got to be the first person to buy Featherston chairs,” he says. “If you’re going to be doing this, you can’t be following trends.” And so in his store, you might see his unlikely obsessions; right now, that’s 1880s English pieces, “mainly because it’s unfashionable and no one else is buying it.”
An American desert turtle shell and undercarriage and two sawtooth shark bills on a speaker.
A chair sourced from an auction in Paris, attributed to Francis Jourdain.
He understands too that his customers gravitate to him because he understands beauty rather than status. “The people who buy things from me buy them because they want to own beautiful things,” he says. “You can buy a lamp from me for $50,000 and none of your friends will walk into your house and say, ‘Oh, you’ve got a Max Ingram in the corner’.
It’s not like buying a Nolan painting, which lets everyone know you’ve made it.” So far, he’s not at all tired of collecting. “Every now and then I look at something and go, ‘That’s beautiful!’ And what’s better than that?”