Art industy contexts – gallery types ACCA




The Arts Industry

When artists seek to display their work in a gallery space they enter the arts industry. Here they may en- gage with curators, dealers, conservator, auction houses, art critics and an audience, all of whom play various roles. In the marketing, promotion, display and critiquing of contemporary art works many issues arise in regards to how the public perceive the art world, and the role of the institutions which support it. This kit briefly addresses the roles of different types of gallery spaces including: the roles of public galleries, commercial galleries, artist-run spaces and galleries on the internet. It is strongly recommended that stu- dents gain first hand experience by visiting different types of galleries and observing the ways in which they market and promote their programs, and the different approaches to exhibition design in the presentation of artists’ work.

Public galleries

A public gallery is an art gallery or art space that is owned, conducted or managed on behalf of the public. These galleries are largely funded by the government using public taxes, and are accountable to the tax payers of the nation.

In Australia this refers to galleries owned by

•federal government (e.g., Australian National Gallery, Canberra)
•state governments (e.g., National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia etc)
•local governments – regional galleries ie those located in regional centres or the suburbs of the capital cit- ies (e.g. Geelong Art Gallery, Ballarat and Bendigo Regional Art Gallery).

These galleries are funded by the Commonwealth, State and local governments who established them and

who have since maintained commitments to their development.


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Roles commonly undertaken by public galleries include

•exhibition of artworks, either from the gallery’s own collection, and/or works borrowed from other galleries, artists or private collections
•the development of collections through acquisition of artworks – for example the NGV established the first separate Department of Photography in Australia in 1968. The gallery now houses over 8,000 photographic works

•to undertake research of both historical and contemporary artworks
•to maintain collections via conservation, in Melbourne both the NGV and the Ian Potter Museum of Art both have their own conservation departments
•to promote the gallery and its collections via education and public programs such as guided floor talks, seminars and lectures, and via websites
•most public galleries present a range of changing exhibitions. Public galleries are also involved in touring exhibitions, this is an important way of promoting both the gallery and the artists involved in the exhibition and making the exhibitions accessible to a wider audience.

National and State Public Galleries (e.g. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne), due to their funding, have excellent resources including diverse collections and pro- grams. Their large resources allow them to house separate departments for education, conservation, mar- keting, publications etc. National and State galleries have a primary responsibility to offer programs which advance education in the community. This is accomplished by promoting access to, and fostering a greater understanding of, their permanent collections, exhibitions and related research.

Public contemporary art organisations

In Melbourne there are a range of public contemporary art organisations such as ACCA (Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, South Yarra), CCP (The Centre for Contemporary Photography, Fitzroy), The Ian Pot- ter Museum of Art (The University of Melbourne), 200 Gertrude Street Gallery (Fitzroy) and the Linden St Kilda Centre for Contemporary Art (St Kilda).

Not all public galleries have their own art collections. The Australian Centre of Contemporary Art exists to provide a venue for the display of contemporary art, and to promote education and discourse around new developments in contemporary art practice.

Regional and Metropolitan galleries

These include those galleries in both regional and metropolitan areas, such as Geelong Art Gallery, Ben- digo Art Gallery, Warnambool Regional Art Gallery, and the Castlemaine Art Gallery and Historical Centre. Regional and metropolitan galleries can:
• play a crucial role in collecting, preserving and presenting cultural heritage.

• will often house exhibitions relating specifically to community groups and aim to reflect the concerns and experiences of their community
• derive funds from local and State Government and from a mix of admission fees, merchandising and private sector support.

Commercial galleries

Commercial galleries are galleries that are privately owned and operated. They play an important role in the arts industry by exhibiting, promoting and selling artists’ work. By nature they are run as businesses whose objective is to make profit through the sale of art works. His can sometimes compromise the type of art stocked and exhibited. They operate on the basis that the gallery selects artists whose work they wish to represent and take a commission or percentage of the sale of the work. In return for taking a commission on sales, the gallery actively promotes the artists it presents through holding exhibitions of their work, invit- ing private collectors and other interested people to view the work at private viewings.

Artists will usually have a contract with the gallery that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party. Such a contract may include an ‘exclusivity’ clause, which only allows the artist to sell their work through the gallery. Many commercial galleries now have websites with biographical information on the artists they represent, and where you can purchase works directly on-line without setting foot in the gallery.

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The building

ACCA’S building is designed by local architects Wood Mash as a space that provides an exciting contem- porary art experience.

Melbourne architecture author, Prof. Leon van Schaik says of the building, ‘The interior gallery spaces adapt so completely that the gallery does not seem to be the same place from one show to the next. On opening nights the foyer is a crush of people eager to see what has been brought to light.’

Based on the European model of the Kunsthalle or “exhibition hall”, ACCA in its simplest form, is a large shell for the display of contemporary art. ACCA has four gallery spaces of varying sizes, which open out from the distinctive foyer space.

ACCA’S aims

•ACCA aims to develop and promote innovative contemporary art practices which often challenge estab- lished thinking.
•Contemporary art can be quite challenging and confronting to people and it is the aim and the role of insti- tutions such as ACCA to educate and inform their audience and attempt to break down these barriers. •ACCA also offers professional support for practising artists, curators, writers and critics and contributes to wider understanding and debate about contemporary visual arts and craft practice through vigorous pro- grams of temporary exhibitions, publications, lectures, forums, artists floor talks, performances and confer- ences.

•In order to promote the active status of current art, exhibitions are selected to present a comprehensive range of visual art practices and media including sculpture, painting, photography, installation work. Video

and multimedia work and works on paper.


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ACCA funding and income generation

As a public gallery ACCA has two main funding partners; the Australia Council and Arts Victoria. There is an increasing expectation from funding bodies that public galleries should become more adept at raising their own funds and some galleries generate their own income through offering membership subscriptions and charging admission for public events and admission – however, admission to exhibitions is always free at ACCA. Our exciting architecture means that ACCA is a very popular venue to hire for private events. This helps to raise revenue for the gallery also. Public access to the gallery is never compromised as these events take place outside of gallery hours. ACCA also receives donations from members of the public and corporate support through sponsorship. Sponsorship is not a donation, and companies expect some return for their investment. Sponsorship can take the form of either monetary or in-kind support. In becoming in- volved in sponsorship, companies are buying the right to associate themselves with events, organisations and people in order to make a positive impact on their sales, new products and company image.

The role of the curator

A curator is literally a caretaker, and within an art gallery or museum environment they are responsible for the maintenance and care of the works in that institutions collection. In larger state Galleries and Museums this would also often involve the purchase of works to add to, and extend the collection, as well as being involved in the ongoing conservation of the collection. The curator is also responsible for providing inter- pretive materials to help people understand the exhibitions – these can include wall texts, exhibition bro- chures, contributing to exhibition catalogues, giving floor talks and interviews.

•As ACCA has no permanent collection the Curator’s role is one of organising, implementing and oversee- ing the exhibition and decides which artists work will be featured and may choose the theme or subject of the exhibition.
•ACCA’s curators are also involved in the creation of our exhibition catalogues which provide people with information about the ideas behind the exhibition and the artists involved.

•ACCA’s curators work with exhibiting artists on their exhibition sometimes for several years before the exhibition is shown at ACCA.
•At ACCA artists are chosen to show by our curators as we don’t accept submissions.

Exhibition Design

Exhibitions at ACCA are designed by both curator and artist depending on the show. Sometimes large themed group shows will be solely designed by the curator and at other times the artist has a large con- tribution in deciding how the space is designed and the placement of works. One example of an unusual exhibition design at ACCA was our New 10 exhibition. For this show ACCA worked in collaboration with NEXUS Designs to construct the spaces for the artists to exhibit. Nexus decided to turn ACCA’s gallery into seven individual sites and placed within each site a set of guidelines or restrictions which each artist had to respond to.


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Presentation and preservation

There are many issues to consider when thinking about the conservation and presentation of artworks.

The very nature of much contemporary art requires that it be very carefully handled. At ACCA works on paper and photography works are often unframed, and quite often may be pinned directly on to the gallery walls. In handling work such as this it is important to remember that the natural oils from our skin affect the PH value of the paper and can cause long term damage. Gallery staff wear white cotton gloves when han- dling artworks, particularly those on paper to prevent any damage.


Jim Lambie Eight Miles High September 2008


Light is one example of a necessary element of the exhibition that can cause damage to the artwork. For example; exposure to strong artificial lighting and daylight can affect photographic works, and cause them to fade. Direct sunlight is the most harmful light source; incandescent (tungsten) lighting is generally pre- ferred to fluorescent, which gives off high amounts of damaging ultraviolet light. Exposure to light also causes photographic works to yellow and become brittle. When works on paper, and photographic works are displayed at ACCA the tungsten halogen lights are usually dimmed to help protect the works, which can be on display for 4-5 weeks. To prevent damage from exposure to light many galleries and museums have strict guidelines as to how long works on paper can be on display.

Gerda Steiner and Jörg Lenzlinger The Water Hole
March 2009

The use of new technologies

Many contemporary artists are experimenting with new technologies. Works shown at ACCA
using these technologies are often difficult and expensive to install. Issues also arise about how this work should be stored and if it is a video work for instance can copies be made. How should artists sell these works, particularly if the technology they used to make or screen them may soon be obsolete or works are reproduced on the internet?


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