Longevity is no sure thing for arts and retail businesses. Urban Cow Studio is a rare breed – it’s sustained both for 25 years.
Mick Krieg opened the half gallery, half shop in 1993 as a launching pad for South Australian artists. “A lot of them had nowhere to put their work out there,” he tells Broadsheet.
Despite last year’s move from the original Frome Street site to Vaughan Place (with gin den The Howling Owl), the gritty DIY-arts vibe of ’90s Rundle Street hasn’t been lost.
Urban Cow was conceived with, and remains defined by, a staunchly SA-only rollcall. “In our early years we had so many artists from around Australia who wanted to be in the gallery and the shop,” Krieg says. “We opened to support South Australian art, we stuck to our guns, and in the long run it’s really paid off.” He says more than 150 artists have ties to Urban Cow, crediting them and the art-supporting public for the business’s enduring success.
To celebrate a quarter of a century, Krieg’s established an inaugural art prize and accompanying exhibition. It’s called The Nineties. “That era very much formed who we are and it’s a bit of a throwback to the bright-coloured walls of the original Urban Cow,” he says.
“For past group exhibitions we’ve invited a whole lot of regular artists,” he says, “and sometimes that can feel a bit exclusionist.” This time around he opened the floodgates with a mass call-out on Facebook. It uncovered a handful of artists who had never been involved with Urban Cow before.
The 21 finalists, chosen by Krieg and his staff, represent a range of art mediums: there are paintings, ceramics, sculpture, jewellery and glassware. “We tried very much not to choose based on the artist’s name or previous history,” Krieg says.
A few have connections that date back to Urban Cow’s inception (Krieg mentions Elodie Barker, Russell Leonard and Dana Kinter. Also represented is a new wave of young artists such as Jasmine Crisp and Billy Oakley.
The total prize pool of $1700 stretches across three categories. A panel of art lovers – d’Arenberg’s Chester Osborn, ABC personality Peter Goers and the City of Adelaide’s Sue McKenzie – will crown the winner. Krieg and former Urban Cow manager and artist Jessamy Pollock will decide on the runner-up. Both will be announced tonight.
A people’s choice award will be announced at the exhibition’s end. Cast your vote at the gallery.
The Nineties runs from Wednesday November 7 to Saturday December 1 at Urban Cow Studio.