Australian Galleries Interview

I recently interviewed Erin Stapleton representing Australian Galleries. Australian Galleries pioneered the commercial art landscape which began in 1956 by Tam and Anne Purves.

Lauren: How do you establish the curatorial context for selecting artists for exhibition?

Erin: As we have a permanent stable of artists and we primarily exhibit solo shows there isn’t really any curatorial context we just chose the times and location that we think certain artists will be best received.

Lauren: How many artists do you typically choose to represent each year, if any?

Erin: Between our Melbourne and Sydney galleries we have a stable of around 110 represented artists so we revolve the artists          around our two exhibiting spaces. Each gallery usually shows two to three solo exhibitions a month so Australian Galleries Melbourne and Sydney shows around 48 artists a year.

Lauren: What is the most important selection criteria an applicant/artist needs to be aware of?

Erin: In the end it all comes down to the strength of the work.

Lauren: Do you promote a particular aesthetic style of work for the gallery and if so why?

Erin: Our galleries aim is to promote significant Australian artists of all mediums however naturally we have settled into a distinct aesthetic style. This is the case for most galleries as each gallery director will gravitate towards artists whose work they enjoy. In our case we tend to focus on artists who work in a figurative narrative style works that reflect and explore the human condition as well as the natural world that we are privileged to live in. A work of course needs to be aesthetically pleasing however for a work to be remembered and have an impact the content and intent needs to be just strong.

Lauren: Australian Galleries have been running since 1956. What would you say the major difference/change aesthetically is between the first group of represented artists to the artists currently represented?

Erin: As mentioned above art is a reflection of the world that we live in so the major changes in subject and aesthetic has been noticeable when the issues that are apparent in a society change. Australian Galleries opened to give post war artists a gallery space to exhibit in so the works of these artists explored issues of a very turbulent time. For example the famous Bride series by Arthur Boyd explored racial prejudices and Albert Tucker represented the horrors of war in a grotesque style. In current day our concerns have shifted and so too has the subjects that artists chose to tackle. The environment and how we are treating it has come to the forefront of the debate and we are seeing many more artists explore environmental issues such as Mandy Martin and Dale Cox.

Lauren: Australian Galleries holds an impressive list of represented artists over the years. Despite being a commercial gallery, do you hold a collection of works that is not for sale?

Erin: Stuart Purves our director does have his own personal collection that consists of artists that Australian Galleries has represented as well as other artists that he is interested in. For example Stuart put together a large collection of outsider art from Arts Project Australia, this work toured to regional galleries and is under consideration as gift to an institution.

Lauren: What is your process of documenting artwork in the gallery?

Erin: We catalogue every work that comes into each gallery into a specially designed database. A photograph of the work is entered along with the work’s: title, date, medium and dimensions. We also track the works provenance entering any exhibition it has been shown in.

Lauren: Australian Galleries pioneered the professional landscape of contemporary art in Australia, how would you envision the future for the commercial arts sector within Australia?

Erin: With financial times being so tough at the moment shows aren’t selling as well as they used to which is hugely disappointing for the artists and it is disappointing for we as the gallery who support these artists and we believe so strongly in them and their work. Artists and galleries are feeling the strain and because of this a lot of artists are moving on and galleries are closing down. The commercial arts sector is being filtered and constricting at the moment but at the same time new ways of purchasing art are expanding such as the larger emphasis on art fairs and also online presence and sales avenues. In our experience however we are most successful when we focus on good quality solo shows and interacting with clients within the gallery walls.

Find out more about Australian Galleries on their website:

http://www.australiangalleries.com.au

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