Firstdraft opened the doors of its first space more than 30 years ago. Since then, Australia’s longest-running artist-led organisation has gone from strength to strength. Under the tenure of a rolling board of directors and a small staff, Firstdraft champions emerging and experimental practices, providing space and support for artists working in non-commercial or experimental ways. Melbourne-based Eugenia Lim, who had her first Sydney solo at the gallery in 2017, is one of many artists supported by its dynamic program. “Firstdraft is such a beacon of generosity and experimental practice for artists and audiences in a climate of increasing uncertainty and risk-adversity,” she says.
Each year, the gallery hosts a fundraising auction of work donated by its tightknit community of artists. 100 per cent of funds raised are put back into keeping the gallery open and free for artists. “For Firstdraft to remain autonomous and vital we all need to pitch in to keep everything going,” says Artbank’s Oliver Watts (a long-time supporter of the gallery). “The auction is a direct way that artists can give back to this marvellous art machine.” 2018 donor Linda Dement agrees: “They deserve, and would wisely use, heaps more money.”
The 2018 Firstdraft Auction, to be held on Friday 31 August, features more than 100 artists, from those who have had their first exhibition in the gallery that year, to established artists giving back to a space they see as critical to Sydney’s cultural life. Sydney-based Monika Behrens is a regular donor. “Firstdraft supported me in my early career and continues to support emerging artists, it feels great to be able to give back through the donation of work,” she says. “The auction is also an excellent way to collect the work of peers and artists I admire.”
Indeed, the auction is about much more than philanthropy. It’s also an opportunity to start or build a serious collection at very accessible prices. Some of Australia’s top artists donate to the auction each year, and 2018 is shaping up to be another treasure trove for savvy collectors, with works from Abdul-Rahman Abdullah, Alex Seton, Athena Thebus, Bonita Bub, Claudia Nicholson, Elena Papanikolakis, Gregory Hodge, Huseyin Sami, Jason Phu, John A Douglas, Kai Wasikowski, Lara Merrett, Liam Benson, Lionel Bawden, Nicola Smith and Sam Doctor, to name just a few.
Image: Firstdraft Auction, 2015. Photo: Document Photography.