Tastemakers: Sarah Rose

The curators setting the tone for the year ahead.

Words: Briony Downes

With a steadily growing back catalogue of exhibitions, Sydney-based curator and arts worker Sarah Rose is gaining momentum. Becoming increasingly adept at building accessible and thought-provoking shows, a core priority for Rose is working closely with artists to develop deep connections between art and audience.

Citing her early experiences as co-founder and curator at More Than Reproduction, a Sydney-based ARI centred on the printmaking practices of emerging female-identifying and gender diverse creatives, as a pivotal point in her career trajectory, Rose says, “I am strongly influenced by my co-founders at More Than Reproduction, Jennifer Brady and Millie Mitchell, and the peer network we have established within our initiative. Curating for me is not just about exhibition-making, although this is vital within visual culture, sometimes the more important work is the ongoing care, collaboration and curatorial advocacy that occurs outside, beside and between these more physical outputs.”

Describing her current role as associate curator working alongside executive director at Sydney’s Artspace, Alexie Glass-Kantor, as a “dream job for my career stage,” Rose continues to uphold an enduring interest in the work of early to mid-career female artists. In late 2021, she curated In the fibre of her being for Fairfield City Museum & Gallery, which won the 2022 Museums & Galleries of NSW IMAGinE Award in the category of Exhibition Projects, Small Galleries.

Looking at how fibre can serve as a conduit for personal and collective histories, the show featured the work of nine artists including Atong Atem, Kate Just and Julia Gutman.

Late 2022 saw Rose curate Pillow Talk at Abstract Thoughts Gallery, Sydney and Hey Siri, can you die of a broken heart? at AIRspace Projects, Sydney with the latter focusing on artists working with video, painting and sculpture to contemplate the complex emotions involved in relationship breakdowns. “Like breath, art can be integral to our lives, tethered to reality and sentience,” she says. “I gravitate to themes that focus on the human experience to generate a sense of relatability and reflection; planting the seeds of an idea to allow audiences to bring their own experiences, associations, dreams and nightmares.”

In addition to her ongoing curatorial projects, Rose is a former member of the Art Gallery of NSW’s Youth Collective and has also held positions at National Association for the Visual Arts and Create NSW. She is currently the coordinator of the Contemporary Arts Organisations Australia network, and points out, “I have had the fortuitous position to work directly with significant female leadership and advocates throughout the Australian art industry.”

A career highlight for Rose is her recent appointment on the NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship curatorium for 2023. “If I had to describe my curatorial style in a word, it would be respiratory. Integral to my practice is creating spaces; where we expand to contract, enter to exit, inhale to exhale. I like to give artworks space to breathe, to hold their own space for audiences to appreciate and occupy the same breath.”

Featured image: Installation view of Pillow Talk at Abstract Thoughts Gallery, Sydney 2022. Courtesy: Sarah Rose.

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023. 


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