18 July 1993

Artspace turns 10 as it changes its emphasis

INSIDE SYDNEY: Artspace, Sydney's first publicly funded contemporary art gallery, celebrates its first decade next week, culminating with a party at its expansive new home in Woolloomooloo on Saturday. Artspace, Sydney's first publicly funded contemporary art gallery, celebrates its first decade next week, culminating with a party at its expansive new home in Woolloomooloo on Saturday.
Gallery director Louise Pether recalled: "Looking back, there have been such phenomenal shifts in the last 10 years.
"Originally Artspace seemed a real 1970s concept, in that anybody could exhibit and it was catering for people straight out of art school.
"But gradually the artist-run galleries have become more numerous, to the point where today you have spaces like First Draft WEST, Arthaus, Black and Lime all filling that gap.
"That leaves us somewhere between them and the Museum of Contemporary Art or NSW Art Gallery."
Before shifting last year to the new $1.5 million Gunnery Visual Arts Centre at Woolloomooloo Bay, Artspace occupied the first floor of an aging Surry Hills warehouse for nine years.
"Artspace was important because it was the first space in Sydney to address contemporary art, as it was practised at the time," explained artist and former Artspace committee member Merilyn Fairskye. "It combined an international outlook with a commitment to local artists and writers. But, just as crucially, it provided a place where artists could learn to negotiate the art world and begin to take control of their careers."
Pether - who succeeded previous directors Judy Annear, Gary Sangster and Sally Couacaud - estimates that 550 artists have participated in more than 200 exhibitions since Artspace opened but said the Gunnery necessarily meant a shift in emphasis for the exhibition program.
"Suddenly, we're in these quite splendid premises. It's corporate - almost glamorous - and the art really has to look good, otherwise everything falls apart.
"So, in terms of experimentation and risk-taking, the sorts of shows we have here will be different to those we experienced at Surry Hills.
"We've decided we're no longer a place for first exhibitors. But we are still a place for emerging ideas, and these can come from any generation or an artist of any experience."
Caption: Ilus: Art of time ... Abby Mellick, Julianne Pierce and Louise Pether, of Artspace, ready to celebrate the gallery's 10th birthday.Picture by PETER RAE
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Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Publication date: 17-7-1993
Edition: Late
Page no: 15
Section: News and Features
Length: 476
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First published in The Sydney Morning Herald

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