The previously paint-coated walls have been sanded back to reveal a rawer concrete finish, and Rowell has installed skylights in place of electronic lighting, so that the sole source of luminance is natural. “Since Daylight Saving finished, we’ve started closing at five, because we’re beholden to the elements,” says Rowell. “But why would you spend a huge amount of money on lights that are just not going to be as good as the natural light?”
Despite being a commercial space, the gallery possesses the kind of architectural gravitas typically reserved for public institu- tions and buildings with cornerstones. It’s perhaps unsurprising then that Rowell has been so successful at placing her artists in these very establishments, with the likes of Agatha Gothe-Snape, Archie Moore, Mitch Cairns and Yasmin Smith currently enjoy- ing particular success. In the next few months alone, Gothe-Snape has two separate solos opening at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art in June and the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts in July, while Smith is working towards her solo Cosmopolis #2.0 at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, in October. Other stable artists making names for themselves in Australia and abroad include Bonita Bub, Patrick Hartigan, Anna Kristensen, Narelle Jubelin, Lillian O’Neil and Oscar Perry, among others.
“Since day one, we have sold a lot of work to museums,” Rowell reflects. “I have lost count, but it’s something like 130 works in seven years.” Yet Rowell also views these transactions as going beyond their pecuniary significance. “Selling art [beyond its value as a commodity] is largely about narratives. It’s about the stories around the work, and around the artist,” she explains. When I ask Rowell what draws her to an artist (and their story), she answers: “The combination of raw artistic talent and the nous of how to channel that talent professionally.” And it occurs to me that she could be describing herself: talent and nous.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 89, JUL – SEP 2019.