In Good Hands:
Gina Mobayed and David Cleary
PUBLISHED IN ART COLLECTOR | May 2022
Upon entering the chic inner-city Potts Point apartment of curator and consultant Gina Mobayed and businessman David Cleary, I’m greeted by many hands: caressing, gripped, and gesturing. There’s a photograph of an elusive Christian Thompson hand-clutching wilted flowers. In Brent Harris‘ painterly vista, a big-eyed blonde tickles Mount Taranaki. Baby angels are hand-picking flowers in Philjames’ cartoon-laced painting, hung serendipitously next to a Ronnie van Hout figurine with arms darting to the heavens. And of course, there’s the guiding hands of Mobayed and Cleary as they joyously whisk me through their breezy mid-rise apartment, filled with a striking assembly of works by Dean Cross, Rosina Gunjarrwanga, Jelena Telecki, Vipoo Srivilasa, Abdul Rahman-Abdullah, Chris Bond and more. Also gathered on the walls, floors, and shelves are pieces by Sam Leach, Nicolette Johnson, Arlo Mountford, Fiona Lowry, and Alex Seton—acquired during their formative careers.
Playful, vibrant, and certainly eclectic, this Australia-strong collection represents the merged tastes of Mobayed and Cleary, who began dating in 2020 after being introduced by mutual friends a decade prior. Bumping into each other at galleries and art fairs, Cleary says he eventually bonded with Mobayed over a “shared approach to collecting, which is grounded by an inherent intention to support early-career artists; to believe in them.” Because Cleary works outside the arts sector, he leans on Mobayed’s curatorial expertise to “spot new, relatively-unknown artists.” He also follows art movements via magazines, Firstdraft auctions, early-career exhibitions, and galleries like Darren Knight Gallery, COMA, and Tolarno Galleries. “Artists absolutely fascinate me,” says Cleary, who owns multiple Jackson Slattery and Jasper Knight works. “I feel compelled to follow their thoughts and ideas through the works.”
With a combined index of 100 artworks, Mobayed asserts that ultimately, the pair’s tastes are “driven by a fundamental understanding of the contribution that artists make to society.” She is well-versed in this regard, after a thirteen-year career cutting her teeth as a Grantpirrie curator, Artbank consultant, and Firstdraft co-director. In 2017, she left Sydney to become the Director at Goulburn Regional Gallery, making her the youngest person to lead an Australian public art gallery. During Mobayed’s four-year tenure, she worked tirelessly to put the regional NSW institution on the map via industry-leading programs, revitalised archives, and travelling shows. Debuting Mel O’Callaghan’s hallucinogenic touring show, Centre of the Centre at Goulburn gave Mobayed a chance to reunite with the first artist she ever worked with. “I was a shy 25-year-old Grantpirrie intern in 2009,” she jovially recalls, “my first task was to ship explosive dynamite from a Queensland mine to Sydney and hire a truck to suspend it from.” Thrown into logistics with an inventive artist like O’Callaghan taught Mobayed that “if an artist has a grand vision, my passion is to help them realise it. The experience of ‘bending to the art’ became an excellent blueprint for the way I continue to work.” Mobayed’s legacy for championing pioneering work continued with Goulburn’s The Good Initiative, a $20,000 biennial award she launched in 2020 to empower emerging artists with local ties.
Images: Gina Mobayed & David Cleary art collection, Potts Point, 2022; Photos credit: Nick De Lorenzo for Art Collector