Thursday, September 27, 2007

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.


Jason said...

why don't you want to be a part of this sort of gallery?

I've never been there ... its more of a shop gallery anyway, and yes the opening times are bad

Ben Rowe said...

No real reason Jason, it's just that I want to be involved in something that I'm truly passionate about. I don't think this is it, that's all.

mark jamieson said...

Jason, how do you know we are a shop if you haven't been here?

What is a shop gallery? I would suggest a commercial gallery depends on selling to survive so they are the most shop-like galleries. They pressure their artists to keep doing the same work so they can satisfy their buyers which mitigates against creativity. Their buyers are investors and buy art like they buy shares often without even seeing the art. This, to me is the ultimate prostitution of art.

Rental galleries like ours allow much more freedom. We don't depend on sales so we can be much more adventurous in who we choose - and some of us do choose. I actually knock back at least 5 artists for every one i select.

Ben, if you want to start a gallery "open to anyone: then it is hard to see how you can be passionate about everything that is in your gallery. Either you only have the art you love or be more open like I am and cop some stuff that hopefully is still interesting but you may not like but someone else does. I bet the 5% of art you thought was good on our walls would not be the 5% the other 500 people who came through here last week thought was good. And I challenge you to come in here, make your self known, and walk around with me and actually pick out the 80% you thought was rubbish. There is a lot here that is not my thing but I don't think there is much that is rubbish. Wait until you start your own gallery and then you will see the amount of rubbish that is submitted.

Having said this there are two points I think you are right about. One is the hours. Yes, 4 hours a day is not really enough. But you neglect to mention we are open sundays which a lot of galleries aren't and we do get a lot more people through the door than most galleries. So this may offset that.

The lack of labels on the work in the stairwell - well what can I say. Overworked mate. I hold 150 shows here a year with over 500 artists and have 800 works in the stock room. I do it all myself. So many galleries you go into they have 10 shows a year and have 5 staff. They can afford it when they sell out the show to investors for $2m and take 40% of the takings.

I provide a cost-effective venue for artists to show their work.I provide all the advertising, invitations, website, staffing, catering etc etc - they don't have to do anything other than do their artwork and turn up on the night. There are more artists than buyers in Australia - can you imagine any other product where there is more manufactures than buyers? This is another topic but exhibiting is about getting the work out there - a cathartic process - not about commercialism.

Anyway, good luck with the process. Good blog and I wish you well.

Ben Rowe said...

Mark, thanks so much for the comments.

I think you misunderstood my point about the 80%.

In my opinion, I thought a lot of it was rubbish... but I actually believe your gallery has a selection of art that would appeal to a mass market. For that, you're doing a far better job than many of the other rental spaces.

My opinion is my opinion only, and I don't think my tastes neccesarily reflect what your regular punters are buying. I think you're doing a good thing - sorry if my post came across as a little negative.

Ben Rowe said...

By the way Mark. I will come in and make myself known next time I'm in. Not to point out that I don't like some of the work, but to learn something extra about your gallery.

I'm no expert, just learning about all this.

mark jamieson said...

Look forward to seeing you when you come in.