LAILA puts down roots

We spoke to the gallery’s Yarran Gatsby to find out more about their big move.

Words: Erin Irwin

After many years of transforming sites around Sydney into impromptu art experiences, LAILA has now found the perfect site to call home, with co-directors Yarran Gatsby and Seamus Heidenreich to re-open the gallery’s doors in Marrickville in Sydney’s Inner West. Of course, the gallery’s inclination towards unconventional spaces still remains, with what was once an abandoned ambulance station now to play host to the gallery’s program.

Gatsby explains that it was not simply the remarkable space that drew them to the area. “There is a rich history of galleries and project spaces in the neighbourhood, with galleries and venues such as Sydenham 55 and Red Rattler shaping much of our understanding of contemporary art”, says Gatsby, “it feels like the right time to go west”. With other neighbours including Sydenham International and The Commercial, LAILA Gallery has found an area that is becoming a hub for contemporary art practice and curation.

In settling down, the gallery is looking to evolve. “Having previously worked out of makeshift apartment spaces, the new space is more of a traditional white cube”, says Gatsby, “which is what we have been working towards for some time”. First and foremost this was for the artists, who hail from across Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America. “Competing for grants and prizes endlessly is not appropriate or viable for all practices”, Gatsby points out, and having a home base will provide a stable support system for the artists and foster collector engagement for the development of their practices. “We are not trying to reinvent the wheel, but simply to continue working with artists we love and whose work we find meaningful”.

The gallery has just opened its first show in the new space, with a presentation of Sydney artist Harrison Witsey’s work ushering in this new phase in the gallery’s development. Gatsby describes Witsey as “an artist’s artist”, having worked extensively with him in artist-run spaces. “It is a privilege to be working with him – I think his work has been largely slept on previously, particularly by other ‘dealer-model’ galleries”. The exhibition will feature light-box sculptures, using salvaged material from poker machines, and is accompanied by an exhibition text by Sebastian Henry-Jones, curator at West Space in Collingwood. This year will also see presentations of works by Melbourne-based artist Nicola Blumenthal, exhibiting solo in Sydney for the first time, as well as by Ben Reid.

LAILA, now located on Level 1 at 158 Edinburgh Road, will be presenting Witsey’s work until 9 March.

This article was posted 27 February 2023.

Image: Harrison Witsey, Good Fortune, installation view. Courtesy: the artist and LAILA, Sydney.

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