Three Minute Squiz With… Alison Kubler

Alison Kubler has worked as a curator in some of our best museums and galleries and she’s co-authored one of those glorious Thames and Hudson books on art and fashion. She’s also the better half of one of our best contemporary artists Michael Zavros and mum to three undeniably cool kids. In her ample spare time, Alison has her own art consultancy and is on the board of the Museum of Brisbane. We’re stoked to bring Alison and some fashionable colour to this week’s Three Minute Squiz.

Where and how do you Squiz?
I Squiz anywhere on the go, but mostly via my iPhone waiting for children. Waiting – always waiting.

Name four people – living or dead – you’d kill to sit down to dinner with.
Andy Warhol because he made everything good before everyone else, film director Taika Waititi (his instagram is the best), Stephen Fry and David Bowie, whom I spoke to once. True story.

What was the first album you ever owned?
It’s so tempting to lie here but without any irony it was Eartha Kitt – I Love Men because my parents were huge fans. I knew every word, almost all of which were completely inappropriate for a 10 year old.

What’s the best thing about where you live?
I am lucky to live on eight acres but just 20 minutes from the city so I have a surfeit of space. This affords me the opportunity to shout loudly at my children and not be overheard.

Read any good books lately?
Again I wish I had a more erudite title to throw at you here but I most recently read Stephen King’s The Stand, and to my pleasant surprise, it’s marvellous. It is a huge tome though, so I read it on kindle, as its physically so weighty it would kill you if you fell asleep mid page, or if I did actually throw it at you. I love an apocalypse story of any type and I am all for zombie/ vampire preparedness. I think living on eight acres gives me a head start when the undead rise. I also read and loved All the Light We Cannot See.

What skill or talent do you not have but wish you did?
Where do I start? Musical talent is something I admire deeply. I love women like Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) who gets on stage in a skirt and pumps to play ear bleeding feedback.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?
Penelope Keith in To the Manner Born and The Good Life. In that order.

You’re an author, curator, board director, businesswoman and mother to three gorgeous kids. Was that the plan? And what’s your advice to anyone plugging away at their careers?
I can honestly say there was no plan, but I am quite happy that my work and life has taken this direction. I think the only advice is to work hard (boring but true) and also, this may sound trite, be gracious and polite. It goes such a long way. I don’t think anyone needs to sacrifice their humanity for professional or financial success. So I guess what I would say is if you strive to be authentic, you will get what you want. Art history, which was my undergraduate and masters, is about as esoteric as it gets but because I was passionate I was able to parlay an authentic love for this into a career.

In terms of motherhood, I am still getting the hang of it and I am not being self deprecating here. Most days I think “What the heck am I doing?” The trick is not to let the children actually know I am thinking this. Quentin Bryce told me when I was pregnant with Olympia (my second child) and working for a federal minister, and I was very stressed and anxious, “You are their mother for life, not just for now.” It was a very comforting thought. Poor bloody kids – ha ha.

Your other half is one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, Michael Zavros. You must be proud of his success, and of your part in his success?
I am very proud as we have been together since before he started art school. Twenty-five years. We have been through the working three jobs thing and studying and then three babies so we have grown together. There is no secret to his success, he works ridiculously long hours. Ok, his talent is freakish and was seemingly in place since he was very small. He is also very good at just about everything he tries. He does all the haircuts in the family and he can braid with his eyes shut so I never do the girls’ hair. Fact.

What’s your advice to someone who wants to but their first piece of art?
Don’t be intimidated – there are so many ways to see and read and learn about art, you need not ever enter the doors of a contemporary art gallery if you don’t want to. I do think art fairs are an excellent introduction to a lot of art and very democratic in the sense that everyone is welcome. Sydney Contemporary for example is always so good and there is something for every price range. My advice is look to what you like and not what someone says you should like; the latter can be a good way to buy investment art but that’s not for everyone. Art Collector magazine is a great way to start learning who, what and where. Also just go to lots of exhibitions and you will acquire your own knowledge.

We follow you on Insta and love your fashion sense and style – so much colour. Who’s your favourite designer/style icon and why?
You’re too kind! I love fashion and I specifically love the intersection of art and fashion, which was the subject of a book I wrote for Thames and Hudson. I love colour and I sort of lament that in my teens and twenties I wore so much black. I think I am reacting against this now. I love bold prints (Pucci for one) and I love long full skirts with pockets. It’s hard to nominate one designer but I am a collector of vintage and I adore YSL, Halston and Gucci. Contemporary Gucci is next level – designer Alessandro Michele’s aesthetic is the logical response to a climate of uncertainty. More is more and love is love. And I think Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga is a genius. I have one of their Chinese laundry bag handbags and it is so funny and clever.

Do you have a favourite artist?
I don’t think I can answer this succinctly so I shall say one artist whose work I love is the late Wayne Thiebaud.

What’s the best piece of advice your mother/father gave you?
Stop now because it will all end in tears.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Honesty – please don’t tell me what you really think. It’s rude (see above).

What’s your go-to dinner party recipe/favourite meal at your favourite restaurant?
The fried bug in a brioche roll at Rick Shores at Burleigh is death row territory. I would give my first born for one right now.

What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story Australians should know about but don’t?
I think the rising sea level in the Torres Strait is catastrophic and seems to get no attention.

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