ART-traction: Cool art happens down stairs

Art is very good at cooling you down in the summer time. Galleries are the guaranteed oasis of air conditioning no matter what nationality of burnt concrete you happen to find yourself on. Visiting a gallery on a scorching hot day is even better than visiting the cinema, because more often that not there will be a water feature and you will be encouraged to engage with it to find your existential Zen.

There are some very notable Summer Time programs run by some very clever museums such as at MOMA New York’s outcrop in Queens. PS1’s ‘Warm Up’ Festival is very good for cooling you down by celebrating the summer time with DJs, enormous jets of water for the parched crowd of fashionistas, and art – of course. Melbourne’s NGV is anticipating an equally exciting program next summer with ‘Melbourne Now’ providing a perfect distraction from the rising temperatures.

It is hence advisable to break this unseasonable spell of  heat and seek the cool of air conditioning and shade. Thankfully you don’t have to look further than Flinders Lane and the cool of downstairs gallery space, fortyfivedownstairs.

and then there were five, exhibition in the fortyfivedownstairs gallery featuring work by Sharon Billinge, Celeste Chandler, Erika Gofton and Ilona Nelson, December 2012

We had a chat with gallery manager, the lovely Abby Storey about her professional journey:

How long have you been with fortyfivedownstairs? What is your role?

I have been at fortyfivedownstairs since 2009. My initial role was gallery and communications manager, however after a nine month maternity leave in 2010 I am back in a part-time capacity as gallery manager. I consider proposals as part of the exhibitions committee, do the yearly scheduling and work with artists to plan their exhibitions.

What lead you to your position now?

I am a practising artist with a background in arts administration.  After completing a degree in Visual Communications I spent a few years traveling. My first arts admin position was post-travels; a position managing the day-to-day running of a very small gallery in Auckland, New Zealand. I went from there to managing a large not-for-profit community gallery called the Depot Artspace, also in Auckland.  I came to fortyfivedownstairs upon moving from Auckland to Melbourne. My interest and experience in the not-for-profit arts stood me in good stead for this busy multi-artspace (we are a full-time theatre as well as a gallery).

What kind of works and artists do you seek to show at fortyfiveupstairs? How do you go about planning an exhibition?  

We mainly exhibit mid-career artists, however we do hold shows by students and emerging artists when we can.  We accept proposals for exhibitions on a rolling basis, which are considered by an exhibition committee. We are looking for bodies of work which are well thought through and display excellence in craft and a rigorous conceptual framework.

What are the difficulties you’ve found in your role? What do you love about it?

Working in the not-for-profit arts can be very hard, and very demanding of time, but also immensely rewarding. Working directly with artists is the best part, of course – that’s what it’s all about, after all. A lot of the work we do behind the scenes is administrative, and is not at all glamorous, but that’s just part of the job. I love being able to make the experience of exhibiting easier for artists, so that they can spend more of their time concentrating on making their work.

What advice would you give to students looking to work in galleries and exhibition spaces? 

Look at the website before you contact the gallery (sounds obvious, but …). Volunteer during your years as a student, the experience is so valuable, as are the connections and potential references for future roles.

What are your plans for the rest of the year at fortyfivedownstairs? 

We have a fabulous year ahead in the fortyfivedownstairs gallery, including the Bonhams’ auction exhibition of The Laverty Collection, which is running this weekend (15-17 March).

 Laura Phillips


Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

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