Paul Keating opens new private museum

Paul Keating opens new private museum which houses one of the greatest decorative arts collections in Australia


Adelaide, Australia: Today former Prime Minister, Paul Keating will open the new David Roche Foundation House Museum in Adelaide, a $5m purpose built museum which houses 3,000 magnificent pieces of decorative and fine art, spanning two centuries of European design, from the private collection of the late David Roche.  The total works of art are on display together for the first time for public view.

The museum, designed by Adelaide firm Williams Burton Leopardi Architects & Interior Design, houses the exceptional personal collection of David Roche, a devoted collector, who spent his life acquiring the finest of porcelains, paintings and furnishings after acquiring his first antique at the age of 17.

The David Roche Foundation House Museum, located in North Adelaide’s Melbourne Street, comprises David Roche’s former home, Fermoy House and the new, state-of-the-art adjoining building both of which house the collection. Objects in the collection are presented in an opulent manner reminiscent of how David Roche lived in Fermoy House, whilst the museum’s new contemporary building houses an exhibition space that will present curated and thematic presentations of the collection.  Guided tours will take visitors through both Fermoy House and the new galleries and a booking system is available through the Foundation website.

Martyn Cook, Director of the David Roche Foundation House Museum and a personal friend of the late David Roche for almost 30 years, said:  David spent his life on a quest to find the perfect object and he would be absolutely thrilled to know that his dream of a purpose built museum incorporating the house where he lived in North Adelaide since 1954, is now a reality and the joy he experienced from his collection can now be shared with people from across Australia.

 Acquiring wonderful works of decorative art was his greatest passion.  This passion took David all over the world so he could collect the best pieces possible. When he was about to add something to his collection, David would know exactly where it should be placed in his home. He was meticulous on where his works should be housed. All these ‘treasures’ gave David great pleasure up until the end of his life in 2013.

Rarely did a day go by without David adding another ‘essential’ piece to his collection. David always hoped that visitors will leave having found a favourite piece to remember. This is a collection of national and indeed, international significance added Martyn Cook.

David Roche once said that he was hesitant about setting up a Foundation. It took much persuasion for me to believe that my little collection was good enough to do more than give me pleasure. It was visits to small, now famous, collections such as the Mario Praz Collection in Rome that made me think it might be possible. Eventually convinced, I set out as never before to upgrade the collection to the point where I was happy and not reticent about sharing what I had assembled.

 Martyn Cook added: David Roche always feared that no matter what he had, that someone, somewhere would have a far better example. In reality, the collection which he amassed, is one of the finest collections of its type; the furniture, porcelain, clocks and textiles all reflect his prerequisite for quality, notable makers and if possible a provenance to royalty and aristocracy.

The collection’s great strengths lie in European decorative arts: furniture, metalware, ceramics and clocks of remarkable quality. The collection also includes paintings as well as smaller objects of interest and rarity. The focus of the collection is European neoclassical design of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Some of the highlights from the David Roche collection include: a Charles Percier and Pierre-Francois Fontaine designed Table, c.1810; likely made by Jacob-Desmalter, supplier to the Napoleonic court.  A monumental glass Russian Vase on pedestal, c.1830. A Louis Moinet Urn clock, c.1810, known as the ‘Gossip’ clock for Prince Ernst August of Hanover.  Robert-Jacques Lefèvre, Anatole Demidoff, 1820, who in his adulthood became one of the primary collectors of the eighteenth-century. This was acquired from Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia.  A Durs Egg Flintlock pistol, c.1800, one of a pair presented to Napoleon in 1802 by English military commander, Colonel Thomas Thornton. French Commode, c.1820, owned by His Grace the 1st Duke of Wellington, for his Stratfield Saye House, Hampshire, England.  A portrait of Catherine the Great, late 18th century, attributed to court painter Johann Baptist Lampi.  An English Secrétaire a abattant (Fall-front desk), c.1805, designed in the French Imperial manner and gifted by Prince Poniatowski to Sarah Countess of Jersey.

Also included in the collection is a pair of exquisite porcelain jars from China’s Qing dynasty, Kangxi period of 1662-1722 and extremely rare plates from the Meissen, Tournai, Sevres, Furstenberg, Zurich, Worcester and Chelsea porcelain factories.



MEDIA CONTACTS: For further information and to request interviews and images please contact [art]iculate: Susanne Briggs on, 0412 268 320; or Kym Elphinstone on, 0421 106 139.

Notes to Editors: 

About The David Roche Foundation

The David Roche Foundation was established in 1999 by the late Mr David J Roche AM (1930-2013) to be the recipient and custodian of the exceptional collection of antiques, paintings and objects d’art accumulated by him over his lifetime and to be preserved for future generations to enjoy, study and learn from. The people of Australia and especially South Australia are the major beneficiary of his Estate. His wish was to convert his home Fermoy House on Melbourne Street, North Adelaide and build a specific-purpose Gallery on site to create an exceptional museum to house his entire collection. It was also David Roche’s wish that the works, particularly those from past centuries, be presented in a manner reminiscent of how David Roche lived and to be accessible to all, especially the people of Adelaide, his much-loved home town. Fermoy House will remain in much the same state as when David Roche was in residence, displaying elements of his collection in the context of his lifestyle and everyday interaction with his collection. In contrast the new Gallery is the antithesis of this with pieces of the collection displayed in a stylized context, enhanced by light and space.  The new gallery has been designed by Williams Burton Leopardi Architects & Interior Design, Adelaide. David Roche’s home Fermoy House and the new adjoining building create the new exceptional art institution known as The David Roche Foundation House Museum.

About David Roche

David Roche, a collector for almost sixty years, spent his lifetime developing what has become the David Roche Collection. The collection, which spans the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and includes European furniture, ceramics, metal ware, clocks and paintings, is remarkable in its quality and range. It contains many luxury works by leading designers displaying exquisite workmanship, as well as the quirky and playful, and as such reflects the many interests and engaging personality of its creator. The opportunity for David Roche to form such a collection came from the business acumen and success of his father, J.D.K. (Jack) Roche (1901-58).  J.D.K. Roche founded the Adelaide Development Company, a property development business in 1922.  He then moved to Perth where David Roche was born in 1930. He was the fourth of six children, two boys and four girls. David Roche’s first schooling was in Perth, and later in Adelaide. He then attended Geelong Grammar School in Victoria for his secondary schooling. After school he was sent to work on the family property in WA but the isolation convinced him he was not suited to a farming life. After a year he went to work briefly in the family firm’s Perth office before returning to work in the Adelaide office. At this time the Adelaide Development Company was situated in Grenfell Street. Opposite was the auction firm Theodore Bruce & Co. David began to attend sales gaining experience in bidding. The proximity of his workplace to the auction rooms meant that he was able to step out of the office to make a bid during the late 1940s and into the 50s. This was the beginning of a long-self-education in art, particularly in the decorative arts and, above all, in furniture and ceramics. His parents Jack and Dorinda Roche also had a fine appreciation of beauty and art. David Roche continued to upgrade his collection until his death in 2013.

Architect Statement from Williams Burton Architects

Any exhibition or building to house David Roche’s collection needed to encompass what was clearly a very personal journey. In that context, by housing the collection within the former residence “Fermoy House” and a new purpose designed gallery space on site, David Roche’s vision for the Gallery to be viewed in the tradition of a great ‘House Museum’ can be fulfilled.

The German neoclassical architecture of Karl Friedrich Schinkel was a favourite of David Roche. The rigour and proportion of Schinkel, his approach to classical planning as embodied in his works such as Glienicke Palace or Charlottenhof Palace, and the importance of his buildings’ relationship to landscape and courtyard is equally relevant as the classical order or the neoclassic style of many of his buildings. This classical rigour permeates through the new physical additions to “Fermoy house”, the planning and silhouette of the new gallery, and informs the relationship of the gallery to its setting and outdoor spaces. It has also been used to order the exhibition and set a “Classical Context” for sculptural pieces in the atrium fronting Melbourne street, via a stripped internal Classical facade, as well as providing a contextual balance for the “folly” in the lobby, a reconstruction of a pavilion that formally resided as a backdrop to the pool at the rear of “Fermoy house” and was inspired by Schinkel’s Pomona Temple facade, which remained David’s favourite building.

The visitor enters the Museum between the former Residence and the new Gallery, into a light filled contemporary lobby. “Fermoy House” will remain in much the same state as when David Roche was in residence, displaying elements of his collection in the context of his lifestyle and everyday interaction with his collection.  In contrast, the new Gallery is the antithesis of this with pieces of the collection displayed in a stylised context within a totally black envelope. Appreciating the collection will be enhanced by the surprise and delight that is achieved, not by grand architectural gestures, but by the simple ordering of space, managing of vistas, and subtle and persuasive nature of controlled light. Anticipation, excitement and experience, when deftly handled, will ensure a visitor leaves enchanted and uplifted. Celebrated designer Victor Papenek noted that ‘the only important thing about design is how it relates to people’, and the design of The David Roche Foundation House Museum is designed to inspire and illuminate our own relationship to beauty and art through David Roche’s life time of collecting.

The David Roche Foundation House Museum is located at 241 Melbourne Street, North Adelaide.


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