Artwork covers the walls of a former boutique on King William Road, and light pours through large windows facing the sidewalk. There are chairs to sit at and a table often laid out with cake and coffee from down the road. There’s even a resident dog, black labrador Banksy, belonging to art advisor Amélia Davis. Like the website it was born from, Bluethumb’s new Adelaide gallery feels approachable for a budding art collector.
“We’ve got some artists who are Archibald finalists, and then we’ve got people who are straight out of art school,” says Davis. “So we’ve got artworks that are available for $100, and then up to $100,000 – and everything in between.”
Adelaide-born brothers Edward and George Hartley launched Bluethumb in 2012 as an online art hub that allows artists to photograph, price and describe their pieces themselves, while the Bluethumb team handles marketing, shipping and returns. Last year, they opened their first physical gallery – a three-level former factory space in Melbourne’s inner north. Now it’s Adelaide’s turn.
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As managing director, Edward had been keeping an eye on the King William Road spot for some time. “For years, I’ve been intrigued by the online-offline connection. We are an online business – we’ve been going eight and a half years, we’ve got 10,000 artists,” he says. “But I’ve always wanted to know about that [offline] relationship. You can get closer to both your artists and your buyers, particularly your collectors.”
Like in Melbourne, artworks in the Adelaide gallery provide a sample of the website’s expansive collection. There are gold-leaf speckled seascapes from Sydney painter Marnie McKnight; textured, abstract landscapes from Canberra’s Sophie Lawrence; and works from Adelaide’s Brooke Walker, including The Dreamer / Harness Reality, a stunning oil painting of a white horse that greets visitors at the entrance to the gallery.
“We’ve tried to include a bit of every style. We’ve got portraiture, still life, Indigenous works, landscapes, sculpture… some glassworks, some Indigenous desert weavers and some very high-end, collectible works as well,” says Davis. “We pride ourselves on having art for every wall, every home, every office.”
The physical space isn’t a substitute for Bluethumb’s online shop: no money changes hands at the gallery. Visitors looking to purchase a piece will need to scan the QR codes underneath the artworks to be taken to the website.
It’s a model that’s worked well for both the company and the artists it features. The majority of Australia’s professional artists would live below the nation’s poverty line if they relied on income from their art alone, but many artists on Bluethumb now make a living wage from their craft. The online model also gave them the ability to weather Covid-19 better than many in the arts world: in the June quarter, while most Australians were in isolation, online sales of Indigenous artworks reportedly increased by 110%.
The Bluethumb team hopes that opening a bricks-and-mortar gallery will encourage more people to take an interest in art and, ultimately, be a gateway for meaningful interactions between buyers and artists who live and work in Australia.
“People will say, ‘I love this artwork, but I want it in a slightly different size, or a slightly different colour,’ and you can initiate a direct chat with the artist and commission an artwork,” says Davis. “To be able to let buyers make contact directly with artists makes us really different. I think it’s a really nice feeling for both the artist to know where their art is going – and to know the buyer – and also for the buyer to have that contact with the artist, and feel like it was personalised for them.”
72A King William Road, Goodwood
Tues, Wed, Fri 9am–4pm