Changing spaces: Sydney’s ARIs


As we wave a sad farewell to the eminent Damien Minton Gallery who closes its doors this month, it’s reassuring to know that many of our most loved Artist-Run Initiatives (ARI) are still in good stead. But be warned, if you haven’t visited a Sydney ARI recently, some of these spaces are not where you left them last!

Firstdraft gallery, a veritable matriarch of the Sydney artist run initiatives since 1986, held its last exhibition in Chalmers Street last December and threw open its doors to it’s new exhibiting space in Woolloomooloo by March. Firstdraft’s new space– courtesy of the City of Sydney–now hosts four gallery spaces, two artist studios and a concrete courtyard. Once a workman’s wash depot for street-cleaners, the Riley Street building still sports many peculiar features and pokey corners like rust stained concrete from steel storage lockers and heritage urinals. Nadia Odlum’s site specific work Pull was on show when M&G visited. Odlum responds directly to the unique architecture; making visible through black tape the metaphysical rigging of this peculiar juncture building.

Chalk Horse gallery meanwhile has gone underground, relinquishing its infamous back alley Surry Hills address. The gallery’s new position on William Street is marked by a clandestine set of double doors. Look out for the black sandwich board by the sandstone stairs which flags the gallery’s entry. To enter, buzz the gallery on the intercom and take the lift or stairs down to the basement. This July Chalk Horse showcases new work by Reko Rennie in the show No Sleep Til Dreamtime. In a former life the underground exhibition space was a stock room for a high-end furniture store and small parts of the office ceiling still bear chintzy plastic gold paint; a feature of limited lifespan, says gallery manager James, as they complete the final transformation of this basement turned gallery.

The practice of keeping in close proximity with other art spaces continues to maintain the strengths of arts hubs around the city.

Over in Chippendale, MOP projects and neighbour Galerie pompom have just swapped houses, though this is probably more akin to changing rooms with your sibling, given that both spaces are run by Ron and George Adams. MOP was their firstborn and has been in Chippendale since 2008 with younger sibling Galerie Pompom arriving on the scene about 3 years ago. Pompom is run on a commercial basis with Ron and George sharing the parental responsibilities for both spaces.

Within a stone’s throw is another creative space, 107 Projects in Redfern Street. 107 Projects has been making creative play in their Redfern warehouse since late 2012, but have been creative contributors in many guises in Sydney since 2001. M&G caught a glance at a fly-by exhibition by James Harney, but with a broad umbrella of activity on at 107 there’s always something new happening each week. November is already in our diary for a return visit; 107 Projects will stage the celebrations and achievements of the state’s museums and galleries for this year’s IMAGinE Awards.

So if it’s been a while since you took a wander through Sydney’s rich ARI locales, make sure to check out your old friends’ new homes.