Australian commercial galleries slowly return from their long summer hiatus over the next week or two. What are we going to see this year, and how positive are they about what lies ahead? Sharne Wolff managed to track a few down a few gallerists and ask three short questions about their plans…
Natalie Puantulura, Jilamara, 2010. Ochre on linen, 120x80cms. Courtesy: Art Mob.
1. Will you represent any new artists in 2012? What attracted you to their practice?
Josh Milani, Milani Gallery (Brisbane): “I showed two new artists in 2011 – Lucy Griggs and Christian Capurro. In 2012 I’m doing my first show with Stuart Ringholt, who I’ve known for a long time. His work is sincere and humane without being clichéd or off-putting, a rare combination. And I think he is genuinely adding to the history of performance and conceptual art in a way that is both personal and universal. He reminds me how disarming humour can be, be it art, in the face of tragedy, or at the pub.”
Michael Reid, Michael Reid Art (Sydney): “I’ve just taken on Julie Dowling– having exhibited her work in 2006 and 2007. I now represent her in Sydney. I have a belief that the next wave of significance – in terms of Aboriginal art – will come from the city practitioners. Urban contemporary Aboriginal art coming from a generation of creatives such as Dane Mellor, Julie Dowling, Christian Thompson (who I will represent in London) & Michael Cook (am speaking with about representation), artists who all grapple with the notion of personal identity. Today, for many Aboriginal artists it is less about ‘country’ & more about navigating self in a broader world.”
Euan Hills, Art Mob (Hobart): “Natalie Puantulura, a 36 year old Tiwi Islander artist from Munupi Arts, Pularumpi, Melville Island is our first new artist for 2012 with her debut solo exhibition ‘Puwangari – Lots of Dots’. Her technical ability and flare for experimentation with the traditional comb paintings of body paint designs called Jilamara indicated that she had inherited the artistic ability of her mother Maria Josette Orsto and also that of her highly famed grandmother Jean Baptiste Apuatimi. Her first showing in a group exhibition at Art Mob in April 2010 attracted strong interest backed up with good sales in her January 2012 exhibition.”
Paul Greenaway, Greenaway Art Gallery (Adelaide): “Mat Collishaw from London is most remembered as one of the YBAs and his iconic ‘Bullet Hole’ cibachrome image. Collishaw’s lightness and tenderness is a fragile skin that masks the darker side of the world and mankind’s part in it. We believe he is an intelligent and talented force in the world of art today.”
Jan Manton, Jan Manton Art (Brisbane): “Yes, Jan Manton Art is excited to welcome Chinese born, Melbourne based artist, Chonggang Du for his first solo exhibition in Brisbane. In a series of new works titled, Paper in East and West, Du will explore his Chinese-Australian identity and the hybrid space between the two cultures. “As a Chinese-Australian and standing in between the cultures of two different societies, I want to review the social culture formed by social reality, so that I can clearly see my position as an individual”. Paper in East and West will exhibit at Jan Manton Art from 24 April – 19 May 2012. I was attached to this artist because of his skill in painting and then by the concepts behind his work. I believe he is an undiscovered talent.”
Marita Smith, Gallerysmith (Melbourne): “Yes we will introduce Christopher Pease. Chris makes work that is both provocative and politically charged yet his sensitive aesthetic pays homage to French colonisation of the west coast. I am attracted to artists whose narratives are informed by wisdom and whose works display a degree of wit and I find Chris Pease’ aesthetic thoroughly compelling. I can sink into his paintings and inhabit their space, all the while being aware of the political agenda.”
2. What are you most looking forward to this year?
Josh Milani: “Two artists I represent are in documenta13. That should be interesting.”
Michael Reid: “Holding an exhibition of important Australian contemporary art in Berlin in September, followed by the opening of a permanent space in London in October. Having said that, every month already has diarised some truly fantastic experiences – sailing on The World, giving lectures on Australian art in February, hosting dinners and exhibitions for Art Month in March and so on and so on.”
Euan Hills: “This year Art Mob celebrates 10 years of support for indigenous artists in April with over 6000 significant works of art sold in the decade. April marks that anniversary with a wild exhibition of desert paintings and baskets from Martumili Artists from the Martu region of Western Australia.”
Paul Greenaway: “After 20 years, Greenaway Art Gallery has one of its strongest programs of our history this year. Mat Collishaw, Ariel Hassan, Hossein Valamanesh and Sally Smart have shows; we have off-site projects with Thomas Rentmiester, Santiago Sierra and Michelle Nikou; several Art Fairs and more all excite.”
Jan Manton: “I am most looking forward to showing emerging indigenous artist Ryan Presley in his second show since graduating from Griffith University in 2010. He had a sell out show in 2011 and the response to his work is very strong from private and institutional collectors. A private collector from America bought a work, and the University Queensland Art Museum and Murdoch University Art Gallery also bought from the show. Presley is a rising talent in indigenous art.”
Marita Smith: “Eric Bridgeman at Melbourne Art Fair in August. Eric has just returned from a residency in Canada. His new work will remain under wraps until August, but it is explosive!”
3. What will be the biggest challenges for your gallery?
Josh Milani: “In order of difficulty: to sell a nude performance by Stuart Ringholt to a museum; to get Richard Bell out of a litigation pickle; to keep everyone happy and well fed.”
Michael Reid: “Managing extraordinary growth, across a whole range of art business endeavours, within a concise timeframe. From cranking up the gallery at Murrurundi – under a new manager – to representing new artists; publishing two new books; new websites; expanded education programs; more off-site exhibitions; an overseas rampage etc. I had to laugh, Fabian (an artist that I am showing in Murrurundi and who lives in Berlin) told me that my Empire was growing faster than the Romans.”
Euan Hills: “As with the rest of the arts industry we are affected by the decline of sales due to lack of confidence in the luxury goods and retail sectors as well as the dreaded GFC and monetary situation in Europe. The Federal Government’s approach to ownership of art in self-managed superannuation funds has forced a decline in arts spend. Our challenge is to maintain a reasonable level of sales to enable support of our indigenous artists and we believe that this can be achieved with an eclectic exhibition program, strong web driven activity, a positive approach and hard work!”
Paul Greenaway: “Funding the projects I want to do with artists. Tip: Let us all look more for probity and less for what is ‘hot’.”
Jan Manton: “I can’t see any great challenges for this year. 2011 started badly, especially for Queenslanders as they coped with devastating floods and cyclones, but that is now behind us and I sense that 2012 will be a year of positivity.”
Marita Smith: “2012 is looking to be our best year yet. We are consolidating our list of artists this year and will present an exciting exhibition program.”