Think you have to go to New York to find hidden galleries with high ceilings, big windows and high rise views?
Save the airfare and get to Bourke Street.
West Space, located at level 1, 225 Bourke Street is a rare find, even by Melbourne standards.
Located on a surprisingly spacious office building floor, West Space hosts a fantastic array of contemporary shows, as well as a refreshing series of public programming assisting the interested and the curious to break into the elusive art world.
West Space dismantles the feeling of an enclave, and invites both the passer-by and devotee in.
This year is an especially good time to become acquainted as West Space celebrates its 20th birthday with on-going festivities.
Even the street-scene wallpapered elevator is spectacular.
We had a chat with West Space director Danny Lacy on the exciting year ahead at West Space, and his road to the helm.
How long have you been at West Space. Describe your role?
I started as director of West Space in July 2012. I’m primarily responsible for delivering the strategic and artistic direction of the space, developing creative projects and managing our small team of dedicated staff.
Tell us about West Space, how did it come about and how did you find that fantastic location?
West Space was founded as a small artist run space by Brett Jones and Sarah Stubbs in Footscray in 1993.
West Space has always offered artists – both emerging and established – a platform to present their work in a critically receptive and supportive environment.
This allows artists the space to experiment and explore with their ideas and artistic practices.
After 20 years we see ourselves as an artist led contemporary art space committed to supporting artists.
We moved into our current home, at level 1, 225 Bourke Street almost two years ago.
This is West Space’s fourth venue and by far the largest and most centrally located.
What do you look for when planning your exhibition schedule? Which artists appeal to you most and what is the process of putting together a show?
West Space is one of the largest art spaces that retains a really strong peer-assessed application based program.
Around 80 per cent of our program is filled through two application rounds every year.
The other 20 per cent is taken up with creative projects that West Space staff curate internally.
We plan six to nine months in advance, for example exhibition applications (which are all submitted online through our website) are due on May 3 for the first half if 2014.
What is on the horizon for West Space, any exciting plans or upcoming exhibitions over the next year? What big celebrations are planned for the 20th birthday?
We are celebrating our 20th anniversary with some key projects.
A new online space called the West Space Journal will be launched later in the year and shows a commitment to put publishing back on the agenda.
Our annual fundraiser in June will be a special 20th anniversary edition with over 130 artists involved.
We are hosting some international curators and artistic directors from June to November through funding received from the Australia Council’s International Visitors Program.
This is important to start networking internationally and help enable artists to become connected within a larger global outlook.
Tell us about your road to gallery Director? What is your education and work background, when did you first become interested in working with art?
After post-graduate studies in art history (after a degree in Graphic Design) I learnt how to curate by taking the plunge and just doing it, working with artists, understanding the conditions with which artists operate in, and exploring ideas.
I’ve worked at different art spaces including ACCA and MUMA and it’s about gaining experience wherever you work, and finding the right roles that fit your creative development at the time.
I was curator at the Shepparton Art Museum prior to West Space and I saw this role as an opportunity to lead an organisation with a rich history that is also dynamic and responsive to current artistic practice.
It hasn’t let me down.
What advice would you give a student keen to break into the gallery industry? Paid positions are few and far between, is there any trick to making it out of the intern world?
Volunteering and interning is a great way to gain experience and see how the industry works so you can understand which art spaces are a good fit for your personal interests.
I volunteered for a few years before stepping into a gallery assistant role, before another paid opportunity came along.
Paid opportunities can be limited, so working on set projects can be a good thing to do.
West Space’s Professional Practice Series begins Sunday 21 April with Danny Lacy himself presenting on the very important issue of how to get exhibitions and money.