Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects: Changing with the landscape - Art Collector

Issue 59, January - March 2012

Dianne Tanzer and her recently appointed co-director Edwina Bolger speak to Carrie Miller about life running Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects in Melbourne. Not big on rules or set ideas, they are all about flexibility and adaptability, choosing to be led by the artist and the project.

Dianne Tanzer and Edwina Bolger are two gallerists who are actually enthusiastic about the shifting relationship between artists and galleries facilitated by globalisation and digital communication. Together they are co-directors of Melbourne’s Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects. (Bolger, who has worked at the gallery since 2000, was appointed co-director in late 2011.)

They claim that, in an era when artists have been liberated from their dependence on galleries more than ever before, this is also liberating for them as they are no longer locked into an annual calendar but can also work on national and international projects. Their gallery model is one that accommodates this less than conventional approach.

The gallery underwent something of a reinvention in 2010, adding the + Projects to its name and introducing a project space to exhibit a diverse range of contemporary art practices divorced from a commercial context. There is now a dedicated video space too. The program also includes artists’ talks, collectors’ dinners and curatorial workshops.

What early influences have helped shape your eye?

DT: Painters of the Italian renaissance – what can’t you learn from artwork that centres on love, death, power and all the life experiences
in between?

EB: We both understand the fragility of life and the ephemeral nature of things so we’ve gravitated towards occupations and interests that have longevity and significance.

How would you describe your aesthetic and how does it distinguish you from other gallerists?

DT: We refute the idea that you need a specific aesthetic. The artists we exhibit range from large, often confrontational installations by Reko Rennie and the very challenging and poignant works of Yhonnie Scarce to highly rendered, meticulously detailed paintings by Juan Ford and Natasha Bieniek.

EB: The fact that the gallery has had such longevity [it was established in 1990] and we are both still so passionate and excited by contemporary art only goes to show that we do not let a particular aesthetic dominate. The variety of artists and the mediums they use constantly demand us to embrace change and challenging artwork – very happily.

Artists can be wonderful – and can also drive you crazy. What are the best and worst aspects of working with artists for a living?

DT: In our experience you can’t separate personalities and their art. Artists are pretty complex and in many ways you have to take the whole package – if not, perhaps you shouldn’t open a gallery. The artists’ expectations are great, the rewards are huge and the disappointments are many. It’s a pretty heady brew.

EB: In a way, we are lucky in that we get to choose who we work with. This is not necessarily the case in other professions.

Australian collectors are often called conservative. As a gallerist, do you have to try to educate collectors in order to get them to make bolder, perhaps less overtly commercial choices?

DT: We don’t find Australian art collectors conservative. Most of our clients, and particularly the collecting groups, are very well informed and indeed keep us on our toes. They are very knowledgeable and thoroughly researched and make very informed decisions.

EB: Australian contemporary art collectors are always keen to be at the forefront, embracing new art. •

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