Neon Parc: Dude, Where's My Art? - Art Collector

Issue 38 October-December 2006

And yes, they really do say “dude”. Geoff Newton and Tristian Koenig spoke to Ashley Crawford.

Neon Parc are the hot new kids on the Melbourne gallery scene. Combining youthful exuberance and tireless networking, its founders Geoff Newton and Tristian Koenig have wasted little time making an impact. With a fresh stable of innovative artists who were already establishing their own reputations, but who had lacked a commercial outlet, Neon Parc has rapidly become the place to go for collectors seeking an edgy, youthful aesthetic.

Both of the directors had been building reputations as cutting edge activists in the art world before formally joining forces. Newton, also a practicing artist of considerable renown, had been running the irreverent and cheekily named Dudespace from his home in Brunswick while Koenig had been running the artist run inner-city space Bus.

As of writing the gallery has presented five exhibitions, the group show Kids Stay Free, Colleen Ahern, Paul Knight, Natalya Hughes and Geoff Newton himself. There is no clear-cut aesthetic here; the stable
ranges from the cool photography of Knight through to the more poetic and surreal approach of such artists as Irene Hanenberg (featured in AAC issue 36) and Viv Miller (previewed in this issue).

Newton and Koenig initially joked that they shared the “Bermuda Triangle” of inner city galleries alongside Uplands and Crossley & Scott. Uplands, a similarly innovative space, has since moved to Prahran, leaving Neon Parc as the inner-city gallery to visit for younger and moreadventurous artists. Like the original Uplands, Neon Parc is an intimate space situated above a shop on the corner of Bourke Street and McIlraith Place and sitting amidst the plethora of hip new bars that have spread like mushrooms across the top-end of Melbourne.

Australian Art Collector: It’s obviously a challenge to set up a new gallery, what inspired the notion of setting up Neon Parc?
Neon Parc: In the first place the idea of running a gallery was a bit of a joke in that, Tristian was already running Bus (in Little Lonsdale Street) and I had been running Dudespace, a once-a-month space out of my house in Brunswick. In August last year we were approached to take over an artist run space and our response was ‘hey let’s do it commercial’. The more we thought about it the more it made sense. With artist run spaces, however critical, the fact is, as an artist you have to pay rental for a space, sit in it yourself and repaint the walls, too. At the very least a commercial space acts as a hub where the public can stay in touch with an artist’s practice. We had worked with so many artists over the past few years whose practice we admired – most without gallery representation – and the gallery seemed like a rational solution. Also because all of the established commercial spaces are almost overflowing with artists.
AAC: What do you think will set the gallery apart?
NP: We would hope that Neon Parc becomes a space where the art loving public visits on a regular basis to engage with contemporary practice without the atmosphere of a salesroom or museum. We’re approachable and we love art. Our artists are young and innovative. We all have about the same level of ambition to achieve together as artists and gallerists.
AAC: Is there an aesthetic philosophy behind the gallery?
NP: We believe in our artists and we do not set the parameters which may hinder their practice – by approaching projects in this philosophy we can encourage and support their careers in doing so. At this stage of the gallery we are exhibiting a cross section of contemporary practice based in Melbourne – painting, sculpture, photography and installation.
AAC: How did you finance the gallery?
NP: We were fortunate enough to have had a couple of collectors who had bought some of Geoff’s work and other emerging artists now represented within the stable over the past few years. Because of this
relationship they offered to put forward finance for us to establish setup funds for the gallery, which was great. In addition we have personally funded the majority of the ongoings.
AAC: Geoff, how does it feel to in essence be representing yourself as an artist?
NP: Tough. Because I’m always conscious of how much time I spend working on my own practice, instead of working on the gallery, (awww!) which at the moment is consuming a lot. It’s also awkward talking to people about your work on a commercial level. But I’m getting better. (winks)
AAC: What kinds of collectors have you been attracting?
NP: All kinds – corporate, institutional, private, curators and artists. We have had great support from Macquarie Bank, the Joyce Nissan Collection and Ken and Lisa Fehily. We always get a kick when artists and other people working within the arts industry buy work from us.
AAC: Have the curators been paying attention? Eg; have Juliana Engberg or Jason Smith ventured as far as Bourke Street?
NP: Yes, on a number of occasions and stayed for the openings. We have established a great relationship with them and a number of other curators nationally and internationally.
AAC: What’s the critical feedback been like?
NP: Amazingly positive. We have had a great response and as a result we have had some writers and critics extend their professional support, by offering to write for some of our artists.
AAC: How many artists do you have on the books? Will you be expanding or keeping it tight?
NP: We currently have 10 on our books. Initially we are keeping a fairly small stable, which doesn’t mean to say that we will not expand in the future. By initiating other events within the gallery we will be able to keep an innovative approach to Neon Parc.
AAC: What’s the up-to-date list of artists you represent?
NP: We represent Colleen Ahern, Lane Cormick, Damiano Bertoli, Irene Hanenberg, Natalya Hughes, Paul Knight, Geoff Newton, Matt Hinkley, Viv Miller and Noël Skrzypczak.

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