Sydney is home to some impressive art institutions, large-scale art events and reputable commercial galleries. From the Museum of Contemporary Art, to the Sydney Biennale, the Carriageworks contemporary-art program and leading galleries such as Roslyn Oxley9 and Anna Schwartz Gallery, there is rarely a shortage of art treasures to take in, and it’s all fairly simple to unearth.
That said, there is a host of smaller galleries that are less well known or which are brand new to the Sydney art scene. Below are some less obvious galleries, artist-run spaces and alternative art initiatives you may not have come across yet. They showcase work from established and emerging, local and international artists.
Operating out of a disused space on level 2 of the Kings Cross car park since 2011, Alaska Projects dodged the traditional white-cube exhibition model. It has opted instead to present multidisciplinary, intriguing installations in car spaces, stairwells and elevators. Led by Sebastian Goldspink, Alaska’s program is progressive, thoughtful and always exciting. Alaska has featured work from leading local artists (Nell, Samuel Hodge, Will Cooke) and has partnered with some of the country’s best creative institutions (MoNA, FBi Radio, Kaldor Public Art Projects). Last year, Alaska expanded its territory to include an abandoned shopfront on William Street in east Sydney. The space acts as a carry-over of the car-park program. It houses a series of artist studios and workshop spaces that support emerging art production.
Last year Marian Tubbs was commissioned by the MCA to create a purely digital artwork – the first of its kind shown at the institution. Captivating and almost surreal, transmission detox was a complicated web of pages installed with analytics that followed the user through their experience of the work. Tubbs is also the curator at Minerva gallery, which is in a brilliant Art Deco building in Potts Point – so you can expect a similarly experimental, but thoroughly engaging and progressive, approach to her exhibition program.
Palmer Art Projects
Founded by curator Diana Palmer, Palmer Art Projects produced and curated The Cool Hunter’s “temporary experience” exhibition, The Art Hunter in 2014, and co-curated The Knot with New York-based artists Tom Smith and Jonathan Rosen at William Wright Artist Projects’ space in Darlinghurst last year. Initially a floating, nomadic concept, Palmer has exhibited pieces from Olivier Zahm, Bertie Blackman, Friends With You and Stephen Ormandy. Palmer Art Projects now has a permanent location in Woollahra, exhibiting work from New Zealand-based Scott Gardiner, and most recently, photographer David Gamble in collaboration with New York’s Gruin gallery.
Wellington Street Projects
Housed in the front room of a Chippendale warehouse at the far end of a leafy courtyard – Wellington Street Projects features exhibitions from a great roster of up-and-coming Australian artists and curators. Co-directed by painters Belem Lett and Genevieve Reynolds, the program recently included a ceramic display entitled Sealed Earth by Harriet Body – a collection of 1720 hand-grasped pieces of clay created by the artist over one financial year.
Tiny Tailor Gallery
The focus at Tiny Tailor is almost exclusively on emerging talent in both art and design from South Australia. You’re certain to unearth stand-out pieces you may not otherwise come across in Sydney, and work tends to be more collectable, rather than experimental, obscure or wildly avant garde. Alongside paintings by Adelaide-based Rohan Fraser, you’ll find furniture and homewares such as Hunt Furniture coffee tables and stools, and Dot & Co ceramics.
Originally set up in a Surry Hills loading dock, Chalk Horse moved underground in early 2014 to a William Street basement that has a remarkable, ornate front door. Chalk Horse has an impressive exhibition history that dates back to 2008. It has shown gallery director and Archibald Prize-finalist Jasper Knight’s bright pop paintings, and shows by Kate Mitchell, Julian Meagher and Christian Thompson. Look out for work from rising art stars such as Laura Brown and Harley Ives.
Make your way to the back of Title Records on Crown Street and up a narrow staircase to find Mild Manners. Also originally a roaming project, Matt Rabbidge’s more-permanent, light-filled gallery space features an oversize half-moon window, original hardwood floors and a collection of truly charming emerging talent. A series of paintings by Desert Designs’ Jedda-Daisy Culley, called Universal Love, is opening in February.
Down / Under Space
Chippendale bar Freda’s has been a supporter of the arts for many years, and in 2016 it took further steps. Donating its downstairs basement to a team of young curators on a rent-free basis, it’s a win for emerging and unrepresented artists.
The stable of artists include Anna Kirk, Yarran Gatsby, creative director and prop maker Alice Joel, Sydney-based artist Sabella D’Souza, filmmaker and writer Joel Perlgut, and curator Sebastian Henry-Jones. Operating during the same hours as Freda’s, it enables the rare opportunity of for nighttime viewing.
And if you’re still searching for more, we also recommend Home@735, Good Space Gallery, Gallery 9 and Black Eye Gallery. For something a little further afield, Gallery Ecosse in Exeter in the Southern Highlands is co-directed by Chalk Horse’s Jasper Knight. It shows work from seriously talented locals such as Ben Quilty and Paul Ryan.
Updated March 28 2017