Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ideas for a gallery

Earlier in the week I said I'd be sharing some thoughts about where my head is at : What sort of gallery do I think I'd like to start?

If you've been reading my blog (god bless ya cotton socks!), there's probably no real surprises forthcoming. Here's what I'm thinking:

Initially online
- I have decided that I'll be starting this as an online venture. Why? A few reasons:
  1. I just don't have the cash to set up a gallery. The reality is, I need to go back to work to save some money before I'll be able to even consider setting up a shop.
  2. I'm starting a new job this week, and I think an online gallery could be better managed in my spare time - At least while it's up and running.
  3. I am an online junkie, with a background in online marketing. so I think I'd have a better chance of making an online gallery work in the near term.
Having said that, I think it would be really difficult to maintain a gallery that is just on the internet. So my goal is to expand this into a bricks and mortar gallery at some stage. When is dependent on how well the online project goes, and how I go about rustling up some money to afford the rent.

Open to all (almost) - I like the idea of opening a gallery that anyone can submit art to. So my gallery won't just be limited to particular artists.

I also like the idea of an online community of voters, like jpg magazine, where the people determine what goes on display.

That said, I will probably only stock art that appeals to me and is within a particular style, so I see myself filtering through submissions.

Original art, limited edition and open ended prints
- I don't think there's any reason why I could sell original or reproduced work. So at this stage, I'll keep this open-ended.

Local or International - Ahh, this is a tough one. Initially I was thinking that I'd concentrate on Australian-only (or even Melbourne-only) artists. But I've changed my mind since I've began. Why?
  • I think sourcing artists to get involved could be tricky, so I think it might be better, at least initially, to widen the net.
  • I've seen so much great art from all over the world. It seems such a shame to exclude any of it.
On the wall art - I won't rule anything out completely, but I'm thinking that I'll be concentrating on paintings, prints and photography - the type of art that you hang on a wall - rather than anything sculpture or video based.

Art for all - As you've probably guessed, I'm thinking of an art shop more than an art gallery. And I'm thinking that it would be down the affordable end of the art market. It probably won't be the sort of gallery for the high end collector initially.

And of course, any of this could change along the way. But this is where I'm leaning right now.

Albert St, Richmond

After several recommendations, I headed over to Richmond today to Albert St, home to 6 separate commercial galleries. I'm glad I did. It was an absolute delight to be able to visit 6 galleries in the one session, and I can see why people talk highly about Albert St.

Each gallery is well worth a look. Here's a quick summary of what was on when I visited.

First stop was at the John Buckley Gallery, currently holding an exhibition of works by Mark Galea. Mark's work consisted of paintings and sculptures. I preferred his sculptures the best - His vividly coloured box-shapred pieces were more interesting to me. The paintings will be popular but to me they were nothing more than inoffensive corporate foyer art.

Next up was the Karen Woodbury Gallery, which was undoubtedly my favourite exhibition that I saw on Albert St. I loved Michael Doolan's exhibition of silver and coloured moulds of cartoon shapes, like this one here (for now and for ever, almost 2 metres high).

There was similarities with this exhibition and the designer toy movement. It's interesting that this exhibition would definitely be considered fine art, whereas vinyl toys is probably considered a lot more lowbrow.

The 3rd gallery I visited was the Sophie Gannon Gallery, which featured an exhibition by Judith Wright . I really enjoyed these large-format piece s. They were done with acrylic and wax on Japanese paper, creating very interesting textures.

I then visited the Alison Kelly Gallery. This gallery specialises in contemporary indigenous art like the current exhibition by Nyirrpi. I'm not really into indigenous art, so just a quick browse here.

The Anita Traverso gallery was next. Although there wasn't a specific exhibition on here it was refreshing to see a room full of great artworks by different artists.

And finally, I headed upstairs to the Jenny Port Gallery, which was another favourite for me. Through a Scanner Darkly was the highlight, Chantal Faust's exhibition of portraits taken with a scanner rather than a camera. Anything on the surface of the scanner appears very vivid, while everything else is much more hazy. A beautiful effect.

All in all, Albert St is a great way to spend a few hours an see a lot of great art. They're running an open day on the 13th October from 11am which might be worth checking out. I have a flyer for it which lists the website address at, although it doesn't seem to be working at the moment.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Galerie Montmarte

I wasn't even looking for art galleries today. But I found a new favourite.

Galerie Montmarte is just off Brunswick St, behind the Labour in Vain. Specialising in original vintage French advertising posters, this gallery has something for the investor and passer by.

When I was in France last year, I was always taking photos of these vintage posters and images. So I guess it was no surprise to me that I enjoyed the gallery.

But there's something very un-pretentious about Galerie Montmarte. Was it the fact that the owner was far more friendly than most gallery owners appear to be? Or is because we can relate to these vintage pop-culture images more than some other art?

Either way, this is an example of a gallery focusing on a specific niche and doing a great job of it. I imagine that the store would have some loyal investors who buy a lot of work in this style. You could tell that Steve, the owner, had a true passion for this type of art. He loved his job, his gallery and that really showed.

I think the story behind this genre of art is easily digestible, meaning that most people could appreciate the price of this work. Having said that, one of the great things about it is the price range. You can buy huge pieces (up to 2 metres high) for up to three or four thousand, or you can walk away (like we did) with a cool little souvenir for $30.

I've visited about 10 galleries in the last couple of days, and I'll be talking about them all shortly. But my experience with Montmarte was so positive, I just couldn't wait to write about it first.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

One man's trash

Check out the silhouettes behind these trash sculptures. Amazing.
Tim Nobel and Sue Webster take piles of trash and make art into them... but sometimes the art isn't apparent until you see it in a different light.
(via Notcot)

Brunswick St Gallery

Today's gallery visit, among others, was to Brunswick St Gallery.

I'd heard quite a bit about this rental space gallery, so I've been meaning to go for a while now. In fact, today was my third attempt. It had been closed on the 2 previous occasions. Opening only from 12-4, I'd missed opening hours twice. It makes me wonder ... if a gallery has to pay the rent on their space, why wouldn't they be open for more than 4 hours a day.

As soon as you walk in you notice art from wall to wall. Aside from the seperate galleries, there is plenty of space (3 floors in fact) where individual work is displayed. As I've mentioned before, I enjoy seeing a wall full of paintings, as opposed to the sparse walls that some many galleries are renowned for. I also like being in a gallery where there are other people there too. Walking into an empty gallery space can feel lonely.

Now, the debate rages on about whether rental spaces are a good thing. To recap, a rental space is a gallery where the artists pays for space in the gallery to display their works. As a result, the quality of work in rental space galleries can be questionable.

Having said that, the work in Brunswick St gallery today was OK. In OK, I mean that every piece of work probably would be appealing to somebody. My opinion was that 80% of the art was rubbish, 15% OK and 5% good. But tastes differ, and I could imagine would like a lot of this stuff.

Tastes aside, bsg seem to have a pretty good business model set up. As an artist, there are a number of different options you can sign up for. You can be part of a group exhibition such as printmaking, or you can take out a whole gallery space for your own exhibition.

As part of the rental price, the gallery supports your exhibitions by hosting opening nights, printing flyers and organising advertising. It's also a gallery in a high traffic area, so I could see this gallery being a fairly good option for a new artist to get some exposure. But it was disappointing to see that only some of the artwork was labelled with artist names, prices and information about each work.

All-in-all, it looks like Brunswick St Gallery is a successful example of a rental space gallery. I don't think that this is the sort of gallery that I want to be a part of. But I do think anyone has the right to make art, and put on an exhibition if they choose to. So no, I don't really have a problem with this type of gallery.

Originals vs Prints

[Update :: Dan's right, I haven't quite used the word 'print' correctly in this post. See his comment below for a better clarification. Thanks]

I'm wondering what people think about original vs prints when it comes to art?

Yesterday I was in at the Printmaker Gallery on Brunswick st, which has some nice prints. I especially like Jam Fancy's work that is for sale in here ... her work is always cute with a sprinkle of evil.

I also visited the Dianne Tanzer gallery yesterday, on Gertrude St. Ash Keating's exhibition was on. His work was available for sale via limited edition prints (pricey), or free in a take-away newspaper format.

Both experiences got me thinking about the original vs print debate. So I thought I'd jot down a few pros and cons of original and printed works. Feel free to suggest any others in the comments.

Original Artwork

- The artist is directly involved in creating the image. You therefore have a closer connection to the artist
- There is more of a story behind each work, as each piece is considered within the artists entire portfolio.
- Obviously an original is more of an investment.


- Gives art more of an entry-level, making it accessible to more people.
- A way for a artists to earn some additional dollars to pay the bills.
- Allows the non-art-investor to buy affordable work from well known artists.
- I'm sure prints would be considered evil by some, cheapening the art world to a money making experience.

Of course, Prints can be further broken down into to groups - Open ended prints vs limited edition prints. Not sure if there's much difference, although with a limited edition print there feels like there is some amount of exclusivity / collectivity.

Personally speaking, I don't have a problem with artists who do prints. All the art that I own is reproduced. But I'm sure there are others that aren't so comfortable.

Does artist involvement have anything to do with it? My Aunty, Sandra Brett, is an artist that does a lot of linocut artwork. She does all the prints herself, so is still involved in the printing creation.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have two Yoshitomo Nara pieces on my wall that are open-ended giclee prints. I'm sure that Yoshitomo himself wasn't there when these were printed, but does that make them any less special?

We live in a much more digital, reproducible society now than we did even 10 years ago. My guess is that most people (Genuine art investors excluded) would be less fussed about whether an artwork was original/printed and more concerned about having access to art that they can afford for themselves.

Your thoughts very welcome, as always.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Great Australian Artist #5

I haven't profiled an Australian artist for a while, so here goes.

I found Ben Frost's website, this morning and am liking his work a lot.

Ben's work consist of pop culture and advertising image collages, to create some really interesting pieces. A lot of his work is on display and for sale on his website.

This pic here is a snippet from his piece entitled, "dorothy! these aren't yellow bricks - they're incontinence pads!". Nice.


Just wanted to say a quick thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog, and giving me some terrific feedback along the way.

I've been writing this blog for a month now, and I'm really glad that I started it back in August. I've learnt so much from your opinions, thoughts and comments. I knew that a blog would be a great way to connect with people from all over the art world. I've had artists, crtics, gallery owners and just art appreciators here, and it's been fantastic to see things from your perspective.

So thanks. I owe you one.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More galleries

I've managed to squeeze in quite a few gallery visits in the last week or so. Here's a quick round-up of what I've been to.

Villian is the first place I visited during the week. Villian is another shop style gallery, similar to 696 in a way. They have some art but also supplement their range with clothing, magazines and books. It's a great store, and their current Munny exhibition of customised toys is well worth a look.

I wanted to check out a few rental spaces this, so I went to the Red Gallery in North Fitzroy, which was running an exhibition for students at Ballarat University. Nothing there really grabbed me, but it's a good exhibition space they have there. I guess some student exhibitions are potentially going to be a little hit and miss.

69 Smith Street was a gallery that Mark recommended I take a look at, as it's an artist run gallery that's also rental space. Mark's opinion was that galleries like this struggle to keep on putting on good exhibition, and will put anything on just to keep their calendar filled. Although their current exhibition, Shift, wasn't too bad.

While in Smith St I checked out the exquisite palette at St Luke's, the art supplies store. This a a great little exhibition of art painted onto wooden palettes. There's some fantastic pieces here, and exhibitions like these, focussing on a simple idea, are always going to have a strong appeal with the masses. From what i hear, the opening of this was a huge success - there seems to be a lot of red dots on the art list, too.

In the city I visited the Westspace gallery, which was running 3 small exhibitions. also checked out the Paper Shadow gallery on Franklin St in the city, to see the Doze Green exhibition. This is a new gallery, which I liked.

The clandestine alleyway entry of galleries like Paper Shadow has a strong appeal to me. I get a real enjoyment out of the discovery of a place like this. I guess I'm like this with a lot of things. Shops, restaurants, even music that is off the beaten track is appealing to me.

The great thing about Melbourne is that there is so much art to see even when you're not in an actual gallery. I've been there before, but i went back and took a look at the citylights project, which I just love. But even just the back streets in the city has some very cool art. I could wander around for hours.

I've been writing this blog for almost a month now, and in that time have seen a fair smattering of galleries. Plenty more to see, but I'm starting to get a feel for what I'd like to do myself. In the next week I'll be sharing a few ideas with you, and would love your feedback. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 21, 2007

JPG Magazine

Another online art project that I'm really digging is JPG magazine.

JPG is an online user-submitted mag full of articles and photos. All written, taken and submitted by anyone who wants to. The JPG community then votes on the best images and stories, and they get included in the next edition.

With digital photography and sites like Flickr being so popular these days, you can easily forget about the beauty of a nice, un-photshopped image that you can hold in your hand.

The great thing about JPG mag is that it isn't just an online publication. JPG brings their idea to real life by printing a new issue every two months.

Issue 12 is out this week. You might want to take a look.

Here's what they say about themselves:
JPG is not just another photo sharing site - it's a community that's come together to create a photography magazine.

Here at JPG, we're all about "imagemaking without attitude." That means we want JPG to be a positive experience for everyone. This isn't about photo snobbery or pixel wanking. It's just about the joy of photography.
Each issue contains 3 photographic themes ... in the next edition they are:
  • Passport - Travel photography off the beaten track.
  • Gravity Powered - Capturing the action of extreme sports.
  • Tools of the Trade - What gets the job done?
... and a whole heap of other themes that you can submit a photo to for future editions.

Like Threadless, having the 'community-vote' feature is a good one, and a handy filter to weed out the not-so-flash user submitted work.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Question :: Representation

I have a question for all of my kind readers - It's about galleries representing artists.

If an artist is represented by a gallery, does that mean that they must be represented solely by that gallery? Or are artists pretty much free to choose who represents them at any given time?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Links, Links, Links

In my travels this week I have found some more great online galleries. Without further ado ...

First is Clickforart, a nifty site that I discovered tonight. Clickforart is bringing good art to the masses. you can choose art by the artist, theme, style and size. You can then get it framed and sent to you. Their tagline, "real art for real people at real prices" has a nice ring to it.

And who can forget the awesomeness of the Thumbstack Press, the down-to-earth online store where you can buy some great AND cheap prints (plus a few originals).

Thumbstack seem to have an ever growing stack of cool artists.

Finally we have the AMF Gallery. Perhaps not the prettiest site of the group. But with artists like Daniel Lim on board they are doing OK. The art fits within everyones' favourite new art genres, Lowbrow, Pop Surrealism and Street Art. AMF has original artwork - not just prints - unlike Thumbstack or Clickforart.

BTW if you are an artist who is thinking about setting up your portfolio online, and would like a few suggestions, the excellent Creep Machine blog has a terrific post about the best ways to show your art on the web.

I'm such a nerd - I love the internet!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

What type of art galleries are there?

Mark over at Culture Critic @ Melbourne kind enough to meet with me yesterday, and we chatted about the different types of art galleries that you'll find in Melbourne. I learnt a lot.

He has a great post about this today, and describes the different levels of commissions that are charged at each type.

These are the different types of 'Bricks and Mortar' galleries:

Bars and Cafes
- There are a lot of bars and cafes that have artwork on their walls. Generally they only change a small commission (around 10%), and are often a way for newer artists to get their work out there. Mark mentions the Kalidescope Café as an example, and the FAD Gallery in the city is another.

Rental Spaces - Where artists can rent a gallery space for a set period. These include galleries like the Brunswick St Gallery or the Red Gallery. There is some debate about the quality of the work in rental spaces though, as anyone has the potential to display their art.

Artist run initiatives - Artist-run initiatives can also be similar to a rental gallery, like 69 Smith st. But not all of them are - West Space, for example, gets its funding from the government. They have aapplication based exhibitions so are much more selective about what gets exhibited. Via-N have a full list of the artist run galleries in Melbourne.

Commercial Galleries –Where the gallery will actually 'represent' the artist. A commercial gallery buys art on consignment from the artist, and will be more pro-active in promoting the artists' work. Commissions will be higher, from 40% anywhere up to 60%, Mark tells me.

Funded Galleries - Often government funded galleries, from the big ones like NGV - that also make their money from entrance fees - to more alternative spaces like Platform.

Studio Galleries - Where an artist sets up an exhibition space at their studio, so that they can sell their work directly.

Art 'Shops' - Less of a gallery, but more of a shop that sells art, magazines, T-shirts, etc. However they will also run exhibitions. Examples include Outre, Villian and 696. This can also include markets, such as the Rose St. Artist market.

I still need to go out and look at some more galleries, but I think I'd like to start something that has more of a casual shop feel about it. As I've said before, I'm also keen on the online side of things too - so perhaps a gallery that is both online and off.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


[weAREtheIMAGEmakers], the local online art mag is my number one find for today.

It's a cool little not-for-profit way for emerging artists and creatives to showcase their work.

Looks as though they publish a new one each month or thereabouts. I've just killed about an hour on their site, and found a whole host of artists from Australia that I didn't know of before ... including Kill Pixie, Akina, Team Kitten, Christoper Nielsen ...

... I could go on. Or you could see for yourself.

Tolarno Gallery

Yesterday I broadened my gallery viewing to Tolarno, on Flinders lane.

Jason recommended that I go and look at Tolarno as an example of "a serious commerical gallery which is going to get critical reviews serious, art collectors and stable established artists".

Most of the galleries I've visited so far have been those that I knew of, or had been meaning to go to. Visiting Tolarno was widening my net into the area of 'the serious art gallery'. Serious it was.

I wandered up to the 4th floor, wandered through the alarmed glass doors, and there I was. All by myself.

Artist Andrew Browne was on exhibition. His large format paintings of tree branches, taken from flash photographs, were spectacular ... I guess at $30,000 a pop they'd want to be.

I take a quick look around, realising that I am out of my depth here. Wandering back, tail between my legs through those alarmed doors, I realise that Tolarno's is not the end of the art spectrum that I belong.

It's not that I don't appreciate the art. I do. I really enjoyed going there. It's just that I simply don't know know enough about high-end commercial art galleries to think that I could just open one up.

I also believe in art that is accessible to everyone. I think that art - good art - should be available to all of us. People should be able to identify something they like, be in a position to buy it, and display it proudly on their walls.

So if I am going to get into this art business, I'm not going to be competing directly with the likes of Tolarno. But thanks for the tip, Jason.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who's online :: Online galleries for all.

Based on my last post, I thought I'd do a quick wrap up of the online art galleries that I know of. In this post I'm really just talking about those 'Online galleries for all' - the spaces where anyone can sell their art online.

Etsy - This is probably the leader. Etsy is an online community of artists and crafters. Anything hand-made can be bought and sold on Etsy. Born just 2 years ago, over 1,000,000 items have now been sold here. So yup, it's pretty big.

Etsy allows anyone to set up there own shop quickly and easily, wherever you are. It is probably one of the most beautiful websites I've ever seen. It offers users the ability to search for art and crafts by category, colour, location and a whole lot of other unique ways.

Their distribution model is similar to ebay or amazon - They don't need a warehouse to store all the artwork. Instead, the artist ships directly to the buyer once a sale is made. This means there's no limits to the amount of items they can have for sale.

Made It - Made it is the local version of Etsy, and specializes in Australian work. It is nowhere near as big as Etsy, but then again is a lot younger.

Made offers items for sale in a lot of categories, including art, clothing, homewheres, jewellery and lots more. From purely an art perspective, there isn't a lot of work on Made It just yet.

Redbubble - Another local mob, this time in Fitzroy, redbubble is another up and coming art community that seems to be doing well. Redbubble allows you to upload your images and designs, and redbubble takes care of the printing. As an artist you can upload images for cards, wall hangings and even T-Shirts.

Most of the artwork for sale here is Photography based. But there isn't anything to stop artists and illustrators selling their work here. As a buyer, the service is very good, and they even give you different framing options that you can choose from.

With a membership base of over 10,000, the redbubble community is off to a strong start.

Deviant Art - Deviant Art claims to be the biggest art community online. I don't really know a lot about it, and it seems to be a little overwhelming when you visit the site. But by the looks of it, artists can upload and sell there work through Deviant Art. There seems to be a huge amount of art here, including tonnes of manga stuff.

Artflock - Artflock is another online gallery that allows anyone to upload and sell their art, this one based out of the UK. It is a nice looking site, and seems to be a good way for any artist to sell their work. Mostly 'On the wall' type art here.

The only problem with artflock is that most of the art here is crap. Even the most popular art on artflock is generally mediocre.

But all in all, these sites have been done well. I think Etsy and redbubble are the two that stand out for me.

A few thoughts on these types of sites:
  • All of them allow artists to be "Global Microbrands" and sell their stuff to the whole world. That's a good thing for independent artists everywhere.
  • By allowing anyone to add their artwork, without restriction, you are bound to get a lot of bad artwork in there. Which is why the rating systems on these sites are so important, to bring the best artwork to the surface.
  • These are big sites, with many people working on them. There's a lot of time and effort gone into all of these. Not the 'one man band' operations that I had in mind for my business.
  • The sites that nurture their communities are the ones that will do well. That's one of the reason why I think Etsy and redbubble stand out from this crowd.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on these websites. And If there are any that I have missed out, let me know.

Selling art online

Two weeks into this blog, and still very keen to start an art business of some sort, I am leaning towards the idea of opening up an online gallery. At least initially.

Why? For a few reasons:
  • Cost - This is the big one. Although it won't be cheap to set-up a website, you avoid the cost of hiring a gallery space.
  • Competition - As Mark pointed out, there are already 200 'bricks and mortar' galleries in Melbourne. Is there really a need for any more?
  • Flexibility - An online gallery would give me a little more freedom to work on it when I could. Which might give me the chance to do some part-time work somewhere else, to keep some money coming in while I'm setting up.
  • Experience - I have an online marketing background, and think I could use these skills to set up an online gallery. On the other hand, I haven't worked in a normal gallery before.
  • Reach - there is the opportunity to attract artists and art lovers all over the world ... which is less likely than with a shop-front gallery here in Melbourne.
But of course, I do have some reservations about this. For starters, let's look at the competition - There's already some brilliant online galleries and communities set up - I'd sure need to launch something remarkable for it to work.

And the million dollar question ::
Who buys art online?

Is there a big enough market of people buying art online for this to be a viable idea? I suspect that more and more people will start to.

So to help me answer this question, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
  • What experiences have you had with buying and selling art online?
  • Am I wasting my time thinking about opening an online art site?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Coffee with your art?

I popped into Magnation on the weekend, arguably the best store in our city. Magnation is a magazine shop, selling every mag title imaginable. It's great.

There is no pressure to buy magazines when you're in the store. No pressure at all. So you'll often see people settled in for the afternoon, sitting with a stack of magazines to flick through. They also have free wifi, so it's a destination point for nerds like me when they're in the city.

They also serve good coffee, and I suspect it's the coffee that pays their bills. My understanding is that magazines are sold on consignment - meaning they can be returned if not sold at the end of the month. So if they don't sell any magazines, no harm done.
I'm wondering if you could open a gallery that works in this way. Yes, you cover the walls with great artwork that's for sale. But if no one buys any of it, you still have a comfortable place for people to hang out and buy coffee, and you pay your bills that way. Does the art have to be the primary source of revenue?

Now I'm sure some of the high-end art aficionados may consider this too pedestrian. But I'm realising that the ideal gallery that I'd open propably wouldn't be directed toward this group anyway.

You come across plenty of regular cafes that happen to sell art. Do you come across many galleries that happen to sell coffee? Does anyone know of any good examples of this type of gallery?

Photo credit :: Reinar

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Until Never

This weekend I also checked out Until-Never, an awesome gallery just off Hosier Lane in the city (Melbourne, that is).

I looove this gallery. Hidden away off an alley off an alley, and then up two flights of stairs, Until Never doesn't get the passer-by passing by. Which is a big part of the appeal, of course. You have to know about it.

It's got a great atmosphere too - simply a clean space, friendly people, good music and a nice buzz about it for a Friday afternoon. That's the type of feeling I'd be trying to replicate.

Right now, the exhibition 'Hung by the sticky bits' is on, which is a crackin' collection of illustrators, including Sauerkids, Mark Verhaagen, and Beck Wheeler amongst many more.

Run by the guys that do the citylights project, I'm told that the gallery usually holds contemporary and street art stuff ... so I'll be back here for sure.

Friday, September 7, 2007


This week I've been to a couple of galleries to continue my learning more about galleries.

I started off on Brunswick St at the Artholes Gallery.

I should start by saying that Artholes is a great space, and indeed there were some fine work on display. But to be honest, my experience with the gallery wasn't 100% positive.

Why? Because I didn't feel comfortable in it. For a few reasons:
  • There isn't any real sign to suggest that it is open to the public.
  • It was hard to tell if it was actually open (I went there at around 4 on Friday arvo). When I walked in, I didn't receive any welcome from the guy who was working there.
  • It wasn't apparent if the artwork was for sale or not.
  • There wasn't any information, either on the walls or on a leaflet, to describe any of the art on display.
  • There was no welcoming vibe at all. No lighting, no music, and I felt as if I was an intrusion for being there.
Now I can understand that some art galleries are more surreptitious than your regular retail store. But when you have a shop or gallery that makes it's money from the visitors, surely it makes sense to make them feel slightly welcome. Is that too much to ask?

I learnt from their site that they take a 40% on sales, with no upfront fee to artists that are exhibiting their work. 40% was higher than I expected, but I'm new to this game. Is a 40% commission rate average?

The art sold in Artholes' windows is on sale via silent auction. You can email or sms your bids through to buy the art on display. But I've just learnt this via their website - their wasn't anything to indicate this when you're actually in the gallery. Which is a shame.

From my perspective, this isn't the way a gallery should be run. If I were to open a gallery, I'd put a bigger emphasis on friendliness and customer service. I suspect that most people aren't completely comfortable when they are buying new art. Why make it more difficult for them than it needs to be?

Am I being too harsh here?

BlueFlip Art

BlueFlip Art is another online gallery that I really like the look of.

Their gallery has a unique twist - They sell low-cost prints of some amazing artwork, and donate 10% of proceeds to the artist's chosen charity. Nice idea.

The 'low price, high volume' model is in play here. They sell art that is very affordable. But to succeed, I guess that means they have to sell lots of it. I'd be interested to know if this is a full time gig for someone.

The artwork is of a really high standard though. I'm particularly enamored by Richard Wilkinsons' stuff, like 'Red Balloon', pictured here.

BlueFlip is open to anyone, and you can submit your own art here. However, they don't just accept anyone's art. In their words:
... We'll warn you right up front that we're pretty finicky about what we do decide to sell. Take a peek at the prints available right now on the site. If you think your work is of a similar caliber, then by all means send us an email with a link to your work or as an attachment. If it blows our socks off then we'll contact you back and get the ball rolling!
It's a clean looking website, with great artists. BlueFlip have what it takes to make a great online gallery.

Great Australian Artist #4

Niki Fisher's Design by Peppi is my new latest local art find.

Her illustrations are just superb.

This piece here is my favourite, but there's plenty of good work on her site.

Check it out.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Storque has arrived

Etsy's new online zine, The Storque, has arrived!

I haven't spoken about Etsy, the awesome online art gallery, but I am bound to profess my love for it in a post anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Wurst Gallery

Just wanted to point you to The Wurst Gallery, a very cool online gallery that I found a while ago.

Wurst are remarkable for their unique exhibitions, like 'Vintage Vandals' in 2005, where
Each artist was asked to find a framed piece of artwork at their local thrift store and manipulate it into a piece of their own.
The results? Some great pieces, like this one from Driscoll Reid (Aka: Hørne)

(You can tell I have a thing for Low-Brow art, can't you?)

I have my doubts about whether or not an art gallery can exist purely online. But I guess it comes down to the art. If an online gallery can keep coming up with interesting exhibitions and artworks, it has just as much chance of surviving as an offline one, right?

Culture Critic @ Melbourne

I've added Culture Critic @ Melbourne, Mark Holsworths' blog to my blogroll.

Mark writes a great blog, reviewing galleries and art here in Melbourne. He clearly has his finger on the pulse of the Melbourne art scene. I've been reading his blog for a week or so now, and definitely will continue to do so.

I'm having a lot of fun writing this blog. I've only been writing it for a week and a half, but already feel as though I've learnt so much.

Hoorah for Melbourne. Hoorah for Art. Hoorah for Blogging!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Location Location

Today I've been thinking about the location of my gallery.

Now I'm a 'North of the River' guy, so my gut feel is either in the city, or inner north. I haven't looked at prices yet (that is, how much it costs to rent a shop), so that's probably a next step.

My guess is that renting a place in the city would be hideously expensive, so it probably rules that out. But I would ideally like to have it somewhere that both locals and tourists could stumble upon it. Ideas include:
  • Gertrude St, Fitzroy - Just a cool street to be on, probably rather pricey
  • Brunswick St, Fitzroy - Not quite what it used to be, but still attracts a lot of foot traffic
  • Smith St / Johnston St, Collingwood - Maybe more affordable
  • High St, Northcote - a little further out of town ... but it's my new hood
Perhaps I shouldn't rule out other areas just yet. But I've always liked this part of town, and think I'm far more suited to running an art gallery here than say, Armadale.

Then again, I guess an art project doesn't necessarily need to be held in the one physical space. Perhaps it could be a roving gallery, with a stand at the Rose St Artist market one day, and somewhere else the next. Or it could be an outdoor gallery like the City-lights project.

I also like the idea of an underground, guerilla style gallery that 'pops up' in different places, not unlike the mobmov guerilla drive-in movement.

I guess it will probably come down to cost, and where I can afford to set something up. But I'm always interested to hear what everyone else thinks.

Linden Postcard Show

The Linden Postcard Show is another great idea for an exhibition that has become somewhat of an institution in Melbourne.
Each year the Linden Gallery run their postcard competition. Anybody is able to enter a postcard sized artwork (up to 3 per person) into the competition. Judges then pick the winning postcards, and the winner receives $5,000.

With some big sponsers behind the competition, it receives a lot of good coverage, and lots of entries each year - About 2,500 entries were received into this years' show.

It's another example of democratic art, where anyone can enter. For my gallery / store (if that's what my business becomes), I'm leaning towards the sort of art that anyone can submit.

The almanac

"The first thing you should do", I've been told on several occasions, "is to get a copy of the almanac". So I did. "It's the bible", I've been told.

I picked up the August edition of the ArtAlmanac last week. And it is definitely a great starting point to get familiar with the Melbourne art scene, no doubt.

But essentially it's a book full of advertising. And at $495 for a full page, that cost adds up for a small gallery over 12 months. I wonder if it's worth it.

Perhaps the art collector uses the almanac to shortlist their next investment. And I'm sure every gallery feels as though they have to be in it each month, because "you just have to be in it!". But do you?

I'm curious - Is advertising in the the ArtAlmanac a manatory? Does anyone actually read it? Could you spend your gallery marketing budget in a better way? What do you think?

Threadless for Art?

No doubt you've all heard of Threadless, the Chigaco based T-Shirt website.

Threadless works like this: Anyone can submit a design for a T-shirt. Users can then score the T-shirt designs, and the most popular T-shirts are then printed and sold. Each week the team at Threadless print about 10 new T-Shirts, which are quickly snapped up by devoted fans of the site ... which include me. I have a quite a few of their T-shirts, including my favourite, "The Communist Party".

Their business model is simply a great idea. The community creates the T-shirts, the community votes for what T-shirts get sold.

There doesn't seem to be anyone doing this in the art world, but I think it could work really well. Artists could submit their pieces, and the artwork that gets the highest rating gets sold in the gallery.

This has been one of the ideas floating around in my head for a while - to start an art gallery that is "the Threadless for Art". Does anyone else think that this is an idea that could work?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Great Australian Artist #3

Nathaniel Eckstrom gets the guernsey for my next great homegrown artist.

This picture, entitled "None of them you knew" is my personal favourite.

You can check out more of his work at his website, myspace page or etsy store.

I really want to keep using my blog to showcase great local artists - if you know of any artists that are worthy of mention, please let me know.

I heart we heart prints

We Heart Prints is a great site that I keep going back to.

It's a simple blog with links to great prints from different galleries. Like this one - Rose Zephyr by Kris Lewis

Definitely worth a visit if you haven't see it already.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

One more for the week

I also decided to pop into 696 Gallery on Sydney road on Friday. For some reason I have just kept hearing about 696 this week, so I thought I'd take a look for myself.

696 is part gallery, part shop. As you can see by the image, they stock everything from artwork to T-shirts to badges to toys and more. It's a smallish space but they make the most of it by packing everything in.

It's a cool store. A couple of thoughts that I had as I was visiting:
  • The location: Sydney road is great, but does the location pull enough people in? Does a gallery need to be in a good location to pull in the feet traffic, or will people travel?
  • Product range: Are they trying to sell too many different things in the one store?
  • Layout: Some might argue that there is too many pieces on the walls ... but I actually like viewing art like this. In a 'formal' gallery you aren't as free to just browse ... It's as though you need to stop and reflect on each piece exhibited. 696 feels much more down to earth.
  • Support for local artists: Quite clearly they are supporting local artists, and from some of the Melbourne blogs that I've been reading this week, 696 has already generated some local fans since their opening earlier this year.
Their myspace page re-affrims some of these thoughts:
We are a low commission based, free rental space, shop/indoor-outdoor gallery. Keen on supporting local artists, national talent and just cool shit in general. A Non-arrogant approachable space with an eclectic goal. Artists always wanted.
They also have a smallish room out back for smallish exhibitions - right now they are running 'A Pretty Discomfort' : by Narida Yeatman-Morgan.