In a land far, far away

Published in Luxury Travel, Issue 51, Winter 2012

From Broome Jane O’sullivan took a two-hour flight to the Mitchell Plateau then a 15-minute helicopter transfer to reach the Kimberley Coastal Camp, the latest addition to Australia’s high-end travel experiences. The aching remoteness is of course part of the experience, the rest is all about what the camp’s expert guides showed her in this untouched, ancient part of our continent.

“We’re lucky it’s a cool day,” says Kev, striding on ahead. It was 39 degrees Celsius in the shade when we left, and it certainly isn’t any cooler in the full blast of the Kimberley sun. But Kev is one of those hardened country men with a battered akubra and sun-leathered skin, who clearly has a different definition of normal to us city slickers.

We’re bushwalking near the Lawley River, behind the Mitchell Plateau in far north Western Australia. It is without doubt the most remote place I’ve ever been. Most of the bushwalking I do is on nicely groomed trails in national parks, with tidy steps and handrails and trailmarkers, not bush-bashing through spinifex and hopping over boulders. I feel privileged to be out and about in such an untouched and breathtakingly beautiful corner of our country – but I do wish I had some gaiters. That spinifex is prickly stuff.

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Commercially minded

First published in Australian Art Collector, Issue 61, July – September 2012

Jane O’Sullivan talks to Amanda Rowell, who is breaking away from Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery to start her own venture in inner city Sydney.

Roslyn Oxley’s long-serving right hand has left to launch her own gallery. Amanda Rowell, who has been gallery manager at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney since 2001, has opened up shop on Abercrombie Street in Redfern near Gallerie Pompom and DNA Projects.

Rowell, who has also worked with Frank McDonald at Thirty Victoria Street and with the late Eva Breuer, has a career in commercial galleries spanning almost 15 years. “I am conscious of the small size of the art world in Australia,” says Rowell. “It is really a game of numbers. The question of which artists get the leg-ups from galleries is dependent upon the few individuals making those decisions in the small number of galleries that there are. Many very good and interesting artists get overlooked or do not currently have commercial gallery representation for various other reasons.”

The Commercial, as she’s calling the gallery, is her attempt to “shape something new”. It has started with a group of 12 Australian artists, none of whom are currently represented elsewhere, including Agatha Gothe-Snape, Hossein Ghaemi and Robert Pulie. Most are still in the early stages of their careers however some have more mature practices. Rowell will also stage project-based exhibitions and, as a freelance writer, is especially excited about the chance to foster experimental writing through the gallery.

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I’m chairing a panel talk on emerging artists at the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane later this month, to coincide with the museum’s Fresh Cuts emerging art show and the launch of the latest issue of Australian Art Collector

More details here:

Australian Art Collector Launch/Ripe for the Picking, 6pm, 26 July 2012

We launch the new issue of Australian Art Collector with Ripe for the Picking, a panel discussion on the talent-spotting of emerging artists, with curators Jose Da Silva (Octopus 10), Robert Leonard (Fresh Cut 2012), Leigh Robb (Hatched), and gallerist Ryan Renshaw, chaired by Jane O’Sullivan (Australian Art Collector).

Suspending belief

Published in Australian Art Collector, Issue 60, April – June 2012

After a hiatus of 24 years, performance artist Stelarc recently attempted another suspension in Melbourne. The performance was witnessed by a small group of art world VIPs at Scott Livesey Galleries. (The gallery closed the event to the public not because of safety concerns but simply because of the room needed for the winching system.)

Stelarc’s suspensions are somewhat legendary in the history of Australian performance art. In the intervening years since his last one he has continued to push boundaries in other directions. A recent project involved having a plastic ear surgically inserted under the skin of his arm.

His performance in March took place over a four metre long sculpture of the Ear on Arm project. Speaking to Australian Art Collector before the event, Stelarc explained the decision to sharpen the hooks once again. “This has occurred through an unexpected coupling of wanting to somehow reanimate and make more relevant these remote images of previous suspensions with a desire to expose the physicality of both the suspensions and the Ear On Arm project. The skin has always been a site for both exposing the body’s obsolescence and engineering its augmentations.”

The suspensions take “careful planning as to the mechanics” but the performance itself is handled more loosely. “It’s about allowing it to happen, with a posture of indifference, rather than expectation. At a certain time the suspension process will begin. And at an indeterminate time it will end.”

As for all the years since his last performance, the 66-year-old artist is unfazed. “They were always physically difficult. And previous suspensions never really prepared you for the next one. The problem will not be so much a problem of ‘all these years,’ but simply of managing another one.”

The new realities

Published in Australian Art Collector, Issue 60, April – June 2012

Art HK director Magnus Renfrew believes the art world has changed. It’s a fact, he says, that all kinds of interesting work is now being produced outside of the ma in internat ional art centres of Europe and America. But has Renfrew ma naged to reta in the Hong Kong art fair’s focus on Asia since its change of ownership last year? He talks to Jane O’Sullivan.

There was a curious sense of both regional pride and disdain when the news came through in May last year that the Art HK Hong Kong International Art Fair had been bought by the owners of Art Basel and Art Basel Miami Beach.

On the one hand it was vindication of the fair’s success and the growing importance of Asian collectors in the international contemporary art landscape.

But it also raised eyebrows. Would Art HK become just another Art Basel outpost, showing the same galleries from the same countries? More to the point, did Asian galleries still have a future with the fair? After all, Art Basel and its American counterpart Art Basel Miami Beach are not exactly known for embracing Asian art (or, for that matter, Latin American art, or African art). And even before news of the change of ownership emerged, it was evident the 2011 edition of the fair had attracted ever greater numbers of galleries from Europe and the United States.

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