he art world has traditionally been a hard nut to crack into. If you aren’t majoring in fine arts or earning seven figures, it can be an alienating world. Well, Joseph Allen Shea’s Gallery A.S. is doing its best to break down such barriers.
A roving curatorial program – a gallery with no fixed address – presents artists’ work in an ever-changing array of architectural spaces, not only exposing new locations and audiences to new artworks, but exploring new narratives between the spaces art is shown in and the art being shown. “It's important for my work to create a synergy between the art and its context” says Allen Shea.
The galleriest, who trained as a graphic designer and more recently was the curator of Monster Children Gallery, has had a long held interest in the presentation of art. His Izrock imprint is a mixed business for the arts, publishing books for artist friends and bridging the gap between artist and audience in the printed form. Gallery A.S. seems a logical extension of this, uniting artist and audience by bringing the gallery to the people.
To date, Gallery A.S. has re-appropriated the Christian Science Church for an exhibition with Daniel Askill exploring celebrity, media and disaster, occupied the former offices of Paramount Pictures for a group show investigating the relationship between cinema and visual arts, and most recently taken over a sex shop for an exhibition with Anthony Lister titled Bogan Paradise. The interplay between the non-traditional gallery spaces and the artworks afford a less formal, more immersive experience of the work. The buildings become part of the show, rather than attempting to recede by adopting the ‘white cube’ visage of a traditional gallery.
Not only does this immersive experience offer more to the audience, but it balances the patrons. Now it need not matter if you are a regular at Thursday night exhibition openings or have never stepped into a gallery in your life. As a Gallery A.S. exhibition eschews the hoodoo, the experience becomes all the more matter-of-fact. You become a person in a space appreciating contemporary artwork, taking from it what you will, because no two exhibitions are the same. “Viewing art like this offers a new and regularly varied experience for each viewing,” says Allen Shea. “There are no rules for navigating the space, if there are performance elements these are often designed to change through the exhibition, and I always add small details that could be missed by the less observant.”
The benefits are dual-layered too. The buildings play host to the exhibitions and the exhibitions breathe life into these often forgotten or underutilised spaces. The project challenges us to not only open our eyes and engage with the high level of contemporary art being produced in this country and internationally, but to acknowledge the architecture we walk past everyday without a second glance.
With a progressive and diverse inaugural year behind it, Gallery A.S. has big plans for the future. Keep an eye out – the next show could be just down the street.