I must admit that I am more than just a bit excited about the relaunch of Sydney’s Artspace art centre. Although it was established in 1983 and has been in its current location since 1992, Artspace has never really lived up to its true potential, even though it has an international reputation as a cutting-edge, influential organisation. Situated in the historic Gunnery Building on Sydney Harbour in Woolloomooloo, just a short walk from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Artspace would seem to have the perfect location. But a fantastic location does not a world-class art centre make. A lack of vision and identity saw Artspace languish on the periphery of Sydney’s art scene.
But thanks to the tenacity, enthusiasm, and vision of Artspace Executive Director Alexie Glass-Kantor, who was appointed to the position in 2013, Artspace is now the world-class kunsthalle and leading residency-based contemporary art centre that it always had the potential to be. Under the guidance and leadership of Glass-Kantor, Artspace has undergone its first major overhaul in more than 20 years, introducing new branding, a new mission statement (“ever changing, ever challenging”), an updated and expanded exhibition space, a refurbished suite of artist studios, as well as a new “Ideas Platform,” conceived as a totally adaptive program space.
One of the most important changes has been to the main exhibition space. Architects Dunn & Hillam worked with the NSW Government Architect, ARTSPACE, and ARTS NSW to create an expanded, more inclusive, and more cohesive space that rivals that of any world-class contemporary art space, such as those in London and New York. “We wanted to increase the permeability from the street, and draw people into the space to engage with the art. At the same time we wanted to make a space that was flexible and adaptable, for a wide range of art forms, reflecting the vision of Executive Director Alexie Glass-Kantor and her team,” stated Dunn & Hillam.
Another major development is the relaunch of the non-residential studio program as free for artists. Over six years, Artspace will engage 42 artists across different generations and art forms to undertake one-year residencies. The program is now also supported by a partnership between Artspace and UNSW Art & Design which recognises participating artists as Visiting Fellows in the Faculty and also provides them with access to the UNSW Art & Design workshops, maker spaces, and media production facilities. The inaugural One Year Studio Artists for 2015 include: Khadim Ali, Hany Armanious, Kelly Doley, Nick Dorey, Mikala Dwyer, Clare Milledge and Tim Silver.
Artspace celebrated its relaunch on March 29 with the opening of a fantastic group exhibition titled “An Imprecise Science.” The exhibition features the work of thirteen Australian and international artists, and according to Artspace, “explores how, with idiosyncratic intent, we each determine our own processes for embodying experience or tracking life lived.” Commenting on the exhibition, Glass-Kantor said: “’An Imprecise Science underscores the ways that matter becomes immaterial; the harnessing of elements to create an impression of an encounter; frailty commingling with resilience; and forms of psychic endurance.”
Following “An Imprecise Science,” Artspace will continue its exciting 2015 program with the launch of “Art as a Verb,” a group exhibition presented in collaboration with Monash University Museum of Art. Following its presentation in Melbourne, Artspace will host the exhibition from June 4 to July 26 with an expanded list of works. In 2015 Artspace will also present the first edition of “VOLUME 2015 | Another Art Book Fair” from August 6 to September 13. The event will feature an extensive survey exhibition of art books developed in partnership with Perimeter Books and Printed Matter Inc. and will culminate in an inaugural independent Art Book Fair for Australasia.
From September 24 to November 1, Artspace will present a major solo exhibition of work by Melbourne-based artist Nicholas Mangan. Developed and commissioned in partnership with the London-based Chisenhale Gallery, the ambitious new project will be presented at both institutions in 2015, premiering at Chisenhale in July 2015 and then returning to Australia. The 2015 exhibition program will conclude with what Artspace describes as its “key exhibition for profiling the dynamism and breadth of emerging contemporary artistic practice in NSW,” the NSW Visual Arts Fellowship (Emerging), which will be presented from November 12 to December 18.