More than a gallery
“I’d rather have a space where we can do more things,” says the photographer and prolific art collector who’s opening new doors in the Wellington art scene with his nonprofit “art project space.”
Located at 30 Courtenay Place in a lofty, second-floor suite of rooms, it began as rented office space for Brow. “I got the idea that it would be a great place to hang art while my house was being renovated,” he says. “A lot of people started to take note of the place and wanted to get involved.”
Since opening to the public two months ago, Brow has exhibited highlights from his private collection, hosted a party and performance by Rohan Wealleans to celebrate his opening at City Gallery, and created an artist-in-residency workspace currently inhabited by painter Jade Townsend. The whimsical pumice sculptures in Regan Gentry’s show Floating and paintings by Kiri Gillespie are on display in several of the rooms, and the main office space is filled with Brow’s pieces by Wealleans – a must-see for anyone who’s visited the City Gallery exhibition.
The maze-like floor plan of rooms is unlike the big white open space of a typical gallery. Brow says up to three shows can be on at once and he sees a lot of versatility in the space. “I want it to evolve into something that’s exciting for people who aren’t necessarily gallery goers. I want it to be an approachable relaxed place for people.”
Also bucking the typical dealer-run gallery model, all proceeds from sales go directly to the artists, with no cut to Brow. “I don’t want to be an art dealer so it’s always going to be a nonprofit art space,” he says.
Getting grants and nonprofit status is still a work in progress, but the space could support itself by renting out for functions like wine tasting and art group dinner parties. Until the plan fully evolves, Brow says, “I’m personally happy to pay the bill at the moment and give something back to the artists. There’s a gap in the market between the dealer gallery and these student-run art spaces and 30 Upstairs gives emerging artists an opportunity and a bit more profile and can hopefully align them with dealers.”
Townsend, the first artist to take up the three month residency, has a piece in the New Zealand Art Show and an upcoming installation at Te Papa, but she’s looking forward to showing at 30 Upstairs. “It’s a very rare opportunity for artists to make some real money and put a fair price on their work,” she says, adding that putting 40 percent commission for the dealer onto the price can “seem too much for emerging artists.”
A native of Whanganui, she recently returned from 11 years in Britain and landed in Wellington to work at Weta. The studio at 30 Upstairs has made it possible to focus on her painting without fretting about the rent.
“To know that there’s a space like this makes those long dark nights worth it.”