A new wave rolls in

Published in Australian Art Collector, Issue 56, April – June 2011

Perhaps in a sign that the art world has regained its confidence, this quarter will see a host of fresh and not-so-fresh faces open up new galleries. Among them are Vasili Kaliman, who has been cooling his heels since his own gallery closed last year, and curator William Wright. Jane O’Sullivan reports on what’s in store for collectors.

Collectors have much to look forward to with a spate of new galleries opening across the nation. Perhaps the most surprising is the re-emergence of Vasili Kaliman in Melbourne. The former director of Sydney’s Kaliman Gallery has been, as he puts it, “travelling around the world and looking at commercial galleries and art fairs” since his gallery closed in March last year. He was briefly linked to Michael Reid’s online secondary market venture, but has since decided to concentrate on a launching a new gallery with Jarrod and Tara Rawlins, the directors of Melbourne’s Uplands Gallery. Uplands will close in April and the new gallery will open in July under the banner Kalimanrawlins. Both Kaliman and Jarrod Rawlins insist the new gallery is not just a merger. “It is a fresh start for us,” says Rawlins. “At the end of the day both of us will continue to work with some artists and others we won’t be working with.”

It is an unexpected move, not least because both have considerable experience as solo operators. But Rawlins is sanguine about abandoning a name and location that people know. “We know our clients well and they will come to us, it’s not a problem,” he says. “Many people make the effort to go and see the Spiral Jetty in Utah or the Ferapontovo Monastery in Russia. If the art is good people will find it.”

He adds: “So many things can be gained from partnering up … Tara and I decided to take this step because we were working out what was the best thing to do for the 10th anniversary of Uplands and we decided that, as Uplands has this really interesting history, maybe the most interesting thing to do was close it.”

Kaliman, too, has embraced the change. At the time of his gallery closure, he told Australian Art Collector he expected it would be temporary and would soon reopen in an inner-city suburb like Redfern or Surry Hills. Now he talks of needing a sense of moving forward. “One thing I definitely didn’t want was to open a second iteration of Kaliman Gallery in Sydney. That would have been boring,” he says. Collectors will need to wait for details though, with the stable, program and location of the new gallery still tightly under wraps.

For his part, Michael Reid is still forging ahead with his secondary market venture, which will be run online rather than out of a physical gallery. He is in the process of rebranding following Kaliman’s withdrawal and hopes to launch the website in coming months.

Also in Melbourne, Tristian Koenig plans to open his new gallery in South Yarra in late April. The former co-director of Neon Parc debuted his new venture at Art Stage Singapore, and is quietly putting together a program involving artists such as Christopher Hanrahan, Matthew Shannon, Karen Black and John Kleckner, a Berlin-based American artist who will present drawing in the gallery’s opening exhibition alongside Melbourne’s Riley Payne.

In Sydney, the former manager of Kaliman Gallery, Adam Sims, has teamed up with the backers of auction house Deutscher+Hackett to launch a new gallery. It will be called New Albion Gallery and is slated to open mid-year. Given his time at Kaliman Gallery it would be reasonable to expect that Sims would want to concentrate on putting together a stable of younger, emerging artists, but his vision for the new gallery is firmly blue chip. He anticipates around 60 per cent of the stable to be established senior artists from Australia, with the remaining 40 per cent drawn internationally.

New Albion Gallery will operate out of Deutscher+Hackett’s premises on Oxford Street for the first 18 months, moving to a dedicated space once established. While unusual, it’s not the first time there has been such a direct connection between primary and secondary market operators. (In 2007 auction house Christie’s bought the international gallery chain Haunch of Venison.)

Also in Sydney, William Wright, a wellknown curator with a string of credits to his name including the 1982 Biennale of Sydney, has launched his own small gallery space. Run out of his Stanley Street studios, the gallery is more of a passion project than a hard-nosed commercial venture, and is open by appointment only (02 9331 2869). Wright says it is something he’s been thinking of for some time now, perhaps even as early as the 1980s. In those days, he saw artists suffering from lack of attention and support from their galleries and thought of starting his own and “rethinking it from the base”. It was something he was able to achieve to a certain extent at the old Sherman Galleries and now “a few years down the track and a few other projects in between, I can do it on my own, in my own modest way,” he says.

His first exhibition, co-curated with painter David Serisier, was conceived “in recognition of the fact that there are currently a number of younger artists – as well as a few older ones – intelligently revisiting the base of abstraction”. It featured nine young artists including Matthew Allen, Daniel Hollier, Coen Young and Melissa-Jane Palmer. Wright plans to hold around six such curated or collaborative exhibitions a year.

Joseph Allen Shea, a young curator who gained attention for Disorder, Disorder at Penrith Regional Gallery, is also branching out on his own. He spent many years working at Monster Children, a street art gallery in Sydney, and his new venture will continue this interest in forms of art which he considers, while not quite outsider, at least still on the fringes. Gallery AS will be an umbrella for a series of impermanent exhibitions in various locations around Sydney. An exhibition by Daniel Askill, co-founder of the design and film media agency Collider, will kick things off in April.