We of the clay community should note the passing of the well-known ceramics collector, Simon Manchester. Often a larger than life figure, Simon made some impact upon the scene from when he first became interested in collecting in the late ’80s and continued to do so as an animated presence who would give his opinion readily and whose passionate views on who he felt was important as an artist carried weight for many. He ‘adopted’ various ceramists and supported them and their work by not only buying it on primary or secondary markets but aided their work gaining credence via his knowledge of how the secondary market worked for contemporary artists. He made a number of those artists into personal friends. His collection was a fluid thing as he bought and sold constantly working to improve the quality of his holdings, knowing at the same time that the secondary market affected values for the primary and that those he supported gained from his activities. Something he loved explaining. He was a businessman who gained wealth via commercial property and once acquired he turned his attention to art and while he began with antique tourism posters once he began to learn about ceramics he took it up with great relish and over the latter years his collection generally held about 2000 works. This fluctuated with occasions such as earthquakes and adjusted property values and there was a time when he had to sell a large number but, always positive, he soon recovered and began adding again.
One of his great friends, potter Paul Maseyk writes, “Simon literally exploded through the front door of a studio/shop I maintained and began talking, gesticulating, fizzing
and saying I’ll take that, that and that – all at once. I had never seen anything like it (or him) nor will again. After this initial introduction, we steadily grew to become great friends largely through our mutual symbiotic relationship of maker/collector.
He was a lot of different things to a lot of people. I found he could be a polarising figure as is often the case with passionate people. However, with me, Simon was always such a generous, interested, gentlemanly figure. He supported me by buying my work and promoting me to anyone he thought could give me some help with my career. He would
lend works of mine he owned to any institution who asked.” … “Of course being a larger than life character and always interested in living life to the full Simon had dabbled in his fair share of stimulants – shall we call them. He was always open and frank with me about any of his past and I grew to learn a hell of a lot about him and his life. I found this side of his life fascinating too. Like everything he did – his work, his collecting, his voracious appetite for knowledge, his other varied interests, he indulged in “living his life” to maximum effect.” … “For many people like me Simon will leave a huge hole. There will never be anyone like him again .”
Another friend, Rick Rudd, said in eulogy at the memorial service, “Simon’s collection was not just for his own enjoyment. He wanted to share it. There can have been few major curated historical ceramic exhibitions organised by museums that have not included works borrowed from him. … When I set up a museum in Whanganui, he offered to lend a group of works. I didn’t have to ask. He wanted to be a part of what I was doing. … Simon has given so much to New Zealand’s ceramic community and environment; as a patron to living potters, by respecting and attempting to raise the desirability and values of works on the secondary market, his involvement with the Blumhardt Foundation and of course, by building a collection of national significance.”
Simon Manchester has left that collection in the care of Rick Rudd and his Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics in Whanganui. In Rick’s words, “…the collection will quietly educate and be enjoyed by as many people as possible. My fellow Trustees and I intend to create a space where his contribution can be contemplated, remembered and celebrated.”