GrantPirrie Calls It Quits

Stuff Sep 23, 2011 1 Comment

A couple of days ago an email arrived in the Art Life inbox from friendly GrantPirrie director Tony Stephens that began with the rather startling statement:

“I am writing to let you know that I will be leaving Grantpirrie Gallery. As I am sure you have heard, Bridget [Pirrie] and Stephen [Grant] have decided to close the gallery at the end of the year. With this knowledge I have tendered my resignation – giving me time to work on new ventures and explore opportunities for 2012…”

Well, as a matter of fact we hadn’t heard a whisper on this one and we were rather stunned and saddened to learn that another of Sydney’s better contemporary art galleries was closing. Apparently Stephens, who relocated to Sydney from Brisbane a few years back to manage the gallery after previous GP manager James Steele left for Europe, decided to tender his resignation early so that he can get his CV in order before the busy Xmas hiring season.

Why would the Grant and Pirrie decide to close the gallery, we wondered? Although the financial crisis has bitten hard into the trade of many Sydney art galleries most have managed to stay open while the well-heeled Grant, a multimillionaire and philanthropist could certainly afford to underwrite the gallery through the lean times. Wonder no more as another email arrived explaining the situation… sort of…

Gallery closure announcement

After more than 10 years in operation GRANTPIRRIE will be closing the gallery premises from Saturday 15 October 2011, this being the final open day, at 86 George Street Redfern NSW 2016.

GRANTPIRRIE will continue into the future with Directors Stephen Grant and Bridget Pirrie under the existing banner of GRANTPIRRIE | Project.

GRANTPIRRIE | Project is an institution itself beyond the confines of the white cube. The Directors will curate dynamic off-site projects in all corners of the world.

The next GRANTPIRRIE | Project will be Sam Smith Cameraman’ in Berlin 24 November 2011

Future GRANTPIRRIE | Project dates will be announced closer to their respective dates and the Directors look forward to revealing these further additions to the ongoing program.

Directors Stephen Grant and Bridget Pirrie say:

“We share exciting ideas about projects for the future and have chosen to end the white box gallery with a look to shows and events that keep us closer to the wild concepts that kicked off GRANTPIRRIE. We did not start in a white box and will not end there anytime soon…”

For further information please see over page for Directors’ full statement…


GRANTPIRRIE started at the Miami Art Fair in Florida (USA) 2001, 3 months after the World Trade Centre tragedy. A few months later Waterbrain, now hanging in the foyer of AGNSW, opened our first show. One painting.

Soon after that we made a public announcement at Garma Festival, Arnhem Land, under a bow shelter in the red dust with Freddy Timms. We stated that as principal policy we will represent Aboriginal artists under the same terms we do any other artist. This simple statement made Parliament hansard and we stood apart from the pack as more about artists than markets.

Today we have decided to finish the gallery, but GRANTPIRRIE will live on.

Waterbrain, our first show by the great Jirrawun artist and senior Gija Lawman Rusty Peters, was painted in the driveway of Ironwood street Kununurra; we watched him paint and sing over it. The work and its title act a narrative of the collected wisdom garnered as life passes: like water gains wisdom in a river and then flows into the sea. For us at GRANTPIRRIE we have reached the sea, much wisdom gained.

GRANTPIRRIE is about artists and their art. GRANTPIRRIE is about sharing our passion for pushing the curatorial envelope with dynamism and flair, uniting like-minded artists and audiences whom today are in all corners of the world.

We are looking forward to the future and pleased to announce the ongoing program under GRANTPIRRIE | Project. We share exciting ideas about projects for the future and have chosen to end the white box gallery with a look to shows and events that keep us closer to the wild concepts that kicked off GRANTPIRRIE. We did not start in a white box and will not end there anytime soon…

GRANTPIRRIE Benefactions and support have been public and private and will remain in motion but for now the fixed dwelling of the gallery will end. Although it is sad to close the book on our premises, we are proud of the work to date, and of all the people who have been a part of this. The credits, if we rolled them would be greater in length than the feature itself; such is our gratitude to those who made GRANTPIRRIE what it is today.

Like all great teams we will go back to basics and come out again for another season. It has been fun, and we hope you will join us again soon.

Thank you. Thank you Redfern, thank you Rusty Peters, thank you to our supporters and the whole team of GRANTPIRRIE.

Bridget Pirrie

Stephen Grant

Well there you have it. No longer interested in running a gallery Pirrie and Grant are taking the route that so many have taken before them, to wit, rejecting the staid white box and the tiresome job of representing artists to become [as someone recently said of someone else] beautiful drifters. We wish them well and sincerely hope that these projects will be many and plentiful.

Andrew Frost

One Comments

  1. Michael Zavros

    you mixed up the Stephens (Tony) and the Stephen (Grant).

    We did… Oops – Art Life Management.

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