27 May 1993

Purves calls off closure of paddington galleries

INSIDE SYDNEY: Australian Galleries director Stuart Purves yesterday revealed that he no longer intends to wind down his Sydney operation.
"I've done enough airing of my emotions," Purves told Inside Sydney. "It's been tight. I've been wounded and depressed and said we would close.
"But then I gathered myself again, and now it's business as usual. I probably should have said nothing."
Purves announced in January that his million-dollar, four-year experiment at the sumptuous Paddington gallery would close - and Australian would consolidate from its Melbourne base.
"We'd made all the necessary arrangements and our bank was encouraging us to close," he said. "But right at the point when we were about to make the move - literally in the last few months - the market began to lift.
"And there's nothing like a couple of sales to give an art dealer a personality change."
In response, Purves has restructured his organisation to revitalise the Sydney end.
"Janine Purves, my wife, will be taking a much more active role," he confirmed. "She'll be based in Sydney, and I'm going to oversee the whole thing more from Melbourne.
"I'm taking my Sydney administrator Marie-Claire Courtin with me. She's the best personal assistant in the gallery world."
Purves has also appointed Stella Downer, who managed Macquarie Galleries for seven years, as his Sydney manager.
Australian Galleries was established in Melbourne in 1956 by Anne Purves(Stuart's mother) and her late husband Thomas, and has been a mainstay of the country's art establishment ever since.
But the Sydney gallery was Stuart Purves's initiative: "I started Sydney because I wanted to make a stroke in my own lifetime.
"Tim Storrier found this building for us, and Brett Whiteley designed it on the back of an envelope. Alexander Michael, the interior designer, then did all the detailing and we worked on it for 57 working weeks.
"It cost just under $600,000 to purchase - and we spent a good deal more than that again just doing it up. We realised we were over-capitalising, but we felt that wasn't the point.
"We had to spend the money - not only to get the sort of space we wanted, but also to demonstrate a commitment to Sydney."
That commitment was shaken earlier this year when John Olsen, after 20 years with Australian Galleries, went to Gene Sherman's nearby Goodhope Gallery.
"I certainly felt flat when John moved on," Purves said. "But there's life after Olsen and I wish him well."
Purves added he's ridden the "boom and bust", and that the art market has finally begun to stabilise.
"From 1986 to 1988 it went through the roof - and we all thought we were catching up with Europe and our hard work was paying off," he recalled.
"But what you found out was the money wasn't there. Like everything else, people were buying paintings with money they said they were going to make.
"So it all went over the top and we were just kidding ourselves.
"But the markets are like the oceans - they find their own level. And prices have come back to a level where everyone can participate."
Australian has Sydney shows planned for John Coburn, Daevida Allen and Justin O'Brien.
Caption: Illus: "Enough of airing of my emotions...." Stuart Purves to keep galleries going. Picture by MICHELE MOSSOP
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Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Publication date: 26-5-1993
Edition: Late
Page no: 2
Section: News and Features
Length: 675
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First published in The Sydney Morning Herald

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