Graham Geddes The Grand Tour

Stepping from the bustle and clamour of High Street Armadale into the exotic world of Graham Geddes with its moody fragrant interiors, rich with tapestries, furniture, myriad sparkling chandeliers, gilded mirrors, and objects from the Mediterranean to the Orient, transports us to a world like no other. Established in 1972, the sprawling premises with its commanding and theatrical window displays takes the visitor on a journey, informed by one man’s taste and vision.

With his formidable passion for history, myths and stories, the Classics, antiquities, oriental porcelain and sculpture, for travel, for food, for life; for his love of Italy especially, and for places less travelled, Graham Geddes is, in essence, the modern embodiment of a Grand Tourist. He has and continues to relish every opportunity to take the Tour, marvelling at, learning about, and acquiring artefacts for his eponymous emporium.

The Grand Tour, the phenomenon of early travel, enlightened, enriched, and educated many a well to do young English gentleman during its heyday in the 18th century. The heady experiences of Italy in particular, the ‘cradle of civilisation’, (and for the more intrepid Grand Tourist, Greece) were to indelibly inform the cultural, architectural, artistic, gastronomic, and social practices of many. Eager traveller Charles Thompson observed in 1744 of “being impatiently desirous of viewing a country so famous in history”. Italy with its vibrant exotic cities and spectacular ruins and discoveries at Pompeii, Herculaneum and Tivoli was alluring to those with the means. Travel may now be democratic and broad in its offerings, but the country still exerts a powerful presence — and Graham Geddes is often lured by Italy’s siren call. The impatient urge to again travel and ‘go shopping’ for the extraordinary, surprising, and always high-quality objects with which to enrich his collection is the impetus for the current sale.

Graham’s world of antiques is as varied and interesting as the man himself. He was not born into an environment surrounded by art and antiques. His  grandfather, a pawn broker, gave Graham his first taste, setting the then seven year-old the task of polishing the pawn shop silver, urging him to be mindful of over rubbing the marks. At Melbourne University he studied psychology and Fine Arts where the glories of the Classical period and the world of pre-Classical antiquities made a lasting impression. A lifelong voracious reader he likes nothing better than to “wander about in antiquity”, noting that “the past is a way for the future to be seen”. Graham’s journey to antiques dealer however was a circuitous route. He earned his PhD, researching communication problems with deaf children. While serving as a school headmaster at Maude near Geelong he diversified by opening a discotheque, ‘The Catcher’, running bands such as the Wild Cherries and Max Merritt & the Meteors. While the highly lucrative and colourful rock and roll lifestyle didn’t sit well with the Education Department it certainly demonstrated Graham’s characteristic flair for entrepreneurship, for seeing an opportunity and pursuing it, a trait that has served him well over the decades.

Renowned as a raconteur, mercurial, a man who knows how to put on a party, Graham is humble about his life-long interests. Now in his late 80s, he is excited at the prospect of going shopping again, but at the end of the day, Graham’s philosophy is succinct: “I simply love learning about things and understanding the meaning of it all”.

Dennice Collett
Senior Specialist, Decorative Arts