Australian Galleries Celebrates 25 Years in Sydney 1989-2014
Australian Galleries was established in Melbourne by Tam and Anne Purves in June 1956. The space was originally the Purves’ pattern manufacturing business in the inner suburb of Collingwood. They supplied the all-important patterns to the local fashion industry which was centred around the warehouses in the adjoining streets.
Together their vision and driving force resulted in the development of what was then, an extraordinary idea. They started a commercial gallery to show the small group of culturally important post-war Australian artists emerging in Melbourne who at the time had nowhere to seriously show and sell their work. The first painters to exhibit at Australian Galleries included artists who went on to become some of Australia’s greatest ever, such as Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, John Perceval and Albert Tucker.
Stuart and Anne Purves
Anne and Tam pioneered the professional exhibiting and marketing of contemporary art in Australia. From the beginning, their gallery developed a reputation for representing prominent Australian artists and along with the aforementioned, included other great names, John Brack, Justin O’Brien, John Olsen, Brett Whiteley and Fred Williams.
Stuart Purves, the youngest of three children, joined his parents in the gallery in 1966. After the death of Tam in 1969, Stuart and Anne ran the gallery until her death in 1999.
Now under the sole directorship of Stuart Purves, and with 13 staff, Australian Galleries continues to represent significant contemporary Australian artists including Inge King, Colin Lanceley, William Robinson, Garry Shead, Jeffrey Smart, Tim Storrier and John Wolseley along with the Estates of George Baldessin and Lenton Parr as well as a role in the Estates of Arthur Boyd, John Coburn, Lloyd Rees and Brett Whiteley.
Averaging between forty-five to fifty exhibitions each year, the necessity of producing their own print media became evident. In 2001 Stuart began an in-house graphic design and production department for invitations, folios, catalogues and books to promote the gallery’s extensive programme for the artist’s.
To ensure maximum efficiency for sales, administration and cataloguing, Australian Galleries employed an IT company to create a unique database. This was designed specifically for Australian Galleries use to incorporate multi-functional capabilities. The system meets the reference needs of art curators and historians and combines real-time business interaction between the three galleries.
Expertise and Contemporary Perspective
Stuart Purves travels fortnightly between Melbourne and Sydney to work closely with his experienced gallery teams. He also travels regularly overseas to visit artists and update his international perspective.
With over fortyfive years of active involvement in the visual arts, and as one of Australia’s few second-generation art dealers, Stuart is regularly consulted by the visual arts industry for his knowledge and expertise.
He is an approved valuer under the Commonwealth Government’s Cultural Gifts Program and is a former chairman and president of the Australian Commercial Galleries Association. For 10 years Stuart was also a member of the Melbourne Contemporary Art Fair Board, holding the position of Chairman for four of these years. Stuart has also been an avid supporter of Arts Project Australia serving as both a board member from 2006 to 2008, and a collector of the works. Stuart’s private collection, known as ‘The Pearls of Arts Project’, comprises over 180 paintings and sculptures purchased between 1988 to 2008. In 2008 the collection toured the Regional Galleries of Australia. The collection has now been gifted by Stuart to the Sydney College of the Arts.
Stuart Purves received the AM in 2006 for his contribution to the Arts.
The success of Australian Galleries is a reflection of the passion and commitment to the artists it represents. Stuart Purves’ personal dedication and enthusiasm to the promotion of the arts in Australia is indicative of his confidence in the important role visual art plays in the national and international psyche.
A passionate advocate of artists, Stuart Purves’ role as director is to ensure Australian Galleries remains vital and viable so that the artists they represent can air their views through the exhibiting of their work and survive and prosper.
Stuart has expanded the business to include three galleries, two in Victoria and one in New South Wales. The move to Sydney in 1989 provided a strong, extended audience and client base, as well as closer contact with artists living in New South Wales.
The Melbourne galleries are situated in Collingwood – the Derby Street Gallery is at the original site of 35 Derby Street, with the Stock Rooms directly across the road at 28 Derby Street. In Sydney the gallery is in a key location in Paddington at 15 Roylston Street. All locations offer high quality design features to facilitate the display and storage requirements of the works.