In a move that signals the changing state of Sydney’s contemporary art scene, Damien Minton Gallery has announced plans to close in July. The gallery, which represents artists that engage with the Australian cultural landscape – including Liam Power, Neridah Stockley and Simon Gende – is renowned for championing creative life in Redfern.

“We’ve been struggling financially in the last couple of years and when I was approached by the esteemed Watters Gallery to become gallery manager, the decision was made,” says Minton. He set up in the Elizabeth Street space in 2005, after starting a gallery in Newcastle in 2001. “We’ll be having a series of shows in July before closing at the end of August,” he says.

Minton attributes the closure to the high price of real estate, the rise of online art buyers as well as a cultural trend in Sydney toward dining and away from contemporary art. “People who are true collectors understand that their contribution is part of a concentric circle, and that if they buy an artwork, they are contributing to an artist’s cultural production,” he says. “However, the casual middle market, which is my demographic, has completely disappeared.”

Despite this, Minton – who will always get a thrill from selling art to a first-time buyer – is confident in his own legacy. He is still a firm advocate for the commercial gallery’s role in nurturing early and mid-career artists.

“The Redfern Biennale was memorable and the Coloured Digger exhibition, which honoured returned indigenous servicemen, was really powerful,” he says. “Also, our group exhibitions galvanised a spirit that was unique to Sydney. I still believe that commercial art galleries are very much part of the cultural fabric. We’re the coalface of the industry and always will be.”

A Quartet of Artists, featuring Lynne Barwick, Susie Dureau, Becky Gibson and Louise Tuckwell will show at Damien Minton from July 1–5.

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