20 June 2000

Gallery 19 closes

Another CBD `stepping-stone' Goes Under

By Nick Leys

When Gallery 19 closed its doors last Wednesday night a space where one of Sydney's few remaining artist-run galleries has displayed over 300 artists for the past two and a half years the invitation was more like an end of financial year closing down sale.
Several hundred well-wishers responded to the ``EVERYTHING MUST GO!'' bugle call, cramming into the previously disused coffee shop where artists including Adam Cullen, Max Cullen, Maclean Edwards, Simeon Nelson and indigenous artist Harry Wedge have hung their works.
Gallery 19's final exhibition called on displayed artists for a $20 donation ``to help meet our considerable wind-up costs'', with the gallery taking its usual zero per cent commission fee for sales.
A member of Gallery 19's 10-strong management committee, Michael Hutak, said the reason for the closure was the sale and redevelopment of the premises in the prime location of Campbell Street in Haymarket, opposite the Capitol Theatre.
``We were only able to keep the gallery going for so long because of the cheap rent, $300 a week on a month-by-month lease,'' he said after the doors had been shut for the last time.
``That's the only way you can run an artist-run space -- precariously.''
Gallery 19 is just the latest such display space to come to an end. In the last two years, other artist-run galleries like 151 Regent Street, Pendulum Gallery, Side-On-Studios and South have succumbed to rising rents in and around the Sydney CBD, a situation exacerbated by Olympics-driven redevelopment.
``The reality of the inner-city property market means the rich tradition of artist-run spaces in Sydney is coming to an end,'' Hutak said.
``I'm sad it's over, but glad we were able to get away with it for over two years.''
Archibald Prize winner Adam Cullen credited Gallery 19 and other spaces as crucial to his development as an artist.
``If these sorts of environments end, it sort of rings the death knell of art,'' he said.
``Artist-run spaces showcase art that is very fresh. It is straight from the artists' studios and so is usually of the best quality. I started in them, exhibiting in them for 10 years before being taken on by a commercial gallery those spaces are where dealers and owners get artists from.''
Fellow artist Mark Titmarsh said these spaces were of great importance for artists wishing to experiment with different media.
``They are definitely spaces for experimental artforms they quite often showcase the art of the future from up and coming artists,'' he said.
``They are the stepping stone between art school and commercial galleries.''
Anna Waldmann of the Australian Council of the Arts, which funds some artist-run spaces through the Emerging Artists Scheme, agreed the spaces were an important platform for emerging artists, but said they were always ``coming and going''.
``They are very fluid; that is their nature,'' she said.
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