Jarrod Rawlins, Uplands Gallery - Art Collector

Issue 29 July-September 2004

We usually talk of artists as emerging But Melbourne’s Jarrod Rawlins is attracting notice in the budding category of “emerging gallerist”. Co-director of Uplands, the only Australian gallery chosen to show at the world’s hottest contemporary art event, Frieze Art Fair in London later this year, Rawlins engaged in an email Q&A with Michael Hutak.

AAC: Tell us about Uplands’ focus on international art fairs. Why have you adopted this strategy? Why is the international scene important for a Melbourne contemporary gallery?
R: Why wouldn’t you go? We exhibit international contemporary art. Yes, it is made in Australia, but it communicates to a much wider audience, these ideas are relevant and exciting in most western centres. Uplands’ artists exhibit overseas, live overseas as well as here (in Australia), so it is important to capitalise on that and improve the coverage. (fellow director) Blair (Trethowan) and I are interested in what is happening everywhere. Where do you go once you have exhibited at the small amount of institutions here? Who is going to see your work? You must go overseas.

AAC: Artissima 2003 in Turin was your first international art fair, what were the pros and cons of participating?
R: At Artissima everything made more sense for five days. It was great for us, there were other gallerists who were 30 years old, artists who were 30 years old – how many times have collectors in Australia asked me how old I am? Being the first art fair we have exhibited at, I found that the quality of the work shown and the enthusiasm of the audiences to be very refreshing … refreshing to meet collectors, other gallerists and curators who believed in the art they were buying and promoting, who believed that contemporary art is important, and that it’s important to support the artists in as many ways possible.

AAC: What’s the significance for Uplands of being chosen for Frieze?
R: From a business point of view it’s great – Frieze is probably the hottest art fair in the world right now … and art fairs appear to have a short life where they are really interesting, so you go when it’s good. Frieze provides the right context for what’s happening in contemporary art right now, so for Uplands that’s the most significant part … and we are the only Australian gallery to be accepted, so that’s pretty significant. It would be a shame if Australia wasn’t represented there, so good for us I say.

AAC: What are the flow-on benefits in Australia of participating in international art fairs?
R: Opportunities – that’s what you get. People who go out get lucky. Since Artissima where we met with curators and other gallerists, Uplands’ artists A Constructed World (Jacqueline Riva and Geoff Lowe) have secured a show at the Guggenheim New York; James Lynch is showing in Paris; international collectors are calling up wanting work by David Noonan; Matthew Griffin has featured in international art magazines; and of course we’ve been invited to Freize. Stuff like that comes from being present at these events.

AAC: Being a young gallery representing young artists, what reactions have you come up against in the local scene?
R: The artists we are working with are aged between 30-35, they are not young artists, young artists are in high school. How old do you have to be before people think you have matured here? But the reaction overall has been fantastic and only seems to be getting better. The artists we support are very active, they are involved in many things outside of their practice, such as writing and curating – that is really important to us. There’s no over-arching central concern which is good because art can sometimes become boring if you are too concerned.
AAC: Is the art you support commercially viable in Australia? Is it difficult to get the more serious collectors and collecting institutions interested?
R: I consider all the collectors we have to be serious collectors. You have to admire the first ones through the door … that’s bold and important. I mean you have to be serious to have faith in your own decision-making ability … (and) not be guided by market trends. The institutions have also been supportive. Besides harassing them to buy things from us, we give them a point of reference.

AAC: Do you see a role for a body like the Australian Commercial Galleries Association (ACGA)? Do you have any plans to seek membership?
R: Who? No, seriously, I think that stuff is fine, sometimes it is too easy to dismiss what has come before you. But I don’t know how valuable the ACGA is anymore. I mean we follow their code of practice because it is clear, it all makes sense. But at the same time they know we are a commercial gallery, they know we represent living Australian artists, they know we go to international art fairs … they have not invited us so I guess they know what we are about. People in this industry have got to stop keeping things to themselves. The market here is tiny, we need to work together to make it bigger, not work to keep it the same so only a select group of agencies survive.

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