Art is at the core of the Ap­ple Isle

Gal­leries abound, writes El­iz­a­beth Mery­ment

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

PER­HAPS stay­ing at the Henry Jones Art Ho­tel, Ho­bart, has me feel­ing a lit­tle arty. The sen­sa­tion comes over me as I’m stand­ing in the ho­tel foyer, ad­mir­ing the work of some lo­cal artists, pre­sented so beau­ti­fully in this for­mer jam fac­tory con­verted to bou­tique ac­com­mo­da­tion. I don’t know th­ese artists, but I’d like to.

Sure,’’ says my com­pan­ion, a Launces­trian who knows her way around the Tas­ma­nian arts scene. I can show you a few gal­leries.’’

It’s the un­der­state­ment of the week, for a few soon be­comes sev­eral, then many. And some of them are not just good, but great, for the lo­cal arts scene is boom­ing due to Tas­ma­nia’s af­ford­able cost of liv­ing — mak­ing it an at­trac­tive place for artists to live — and a gov­ern­ment scheme that en­cour­ages lo­cals to buy lo­cal art through an in­ter­est-free loan. There are also plenty of won­der­ful gallery spa­ces for ex­hi­bi­tions and a large tourist trade to keep artists in pocket.

We start by call­ing in to see Nevin Hurst at his amaz­ing old mas­ters gallery, Mas­ter­piece@IXL. Po­si­tioned be­side the Henry Jones, it is full of sig­nif­i­cant Aus­tralian works, in­clud­ing im­por­tant paint­ings by John Glover and a huge, fab­u­lous Lloyd Rees. In walls drip­ping with art, there are gems by Nor­man Lind­say, Charles Black­man, John Gould, Fred McCub­bin and plenty of oth­ers. It’s bet­ter than many tax­payer-funded gal­leries I’ve vis­ited, and free (ex­cept if you’re buy­ing, that is).

Im­por­tant, emerg­ing lo­cal work is finely rep­re­sented at the Bett Gallery on El­iz­a­beth Street, North Ho­bart. Here, Dick Bett keeps a sharp eye on the ris­ing stars of the Tas­ma­nian art world and has a great stash of works by award-win­ners Michael McWil­liams, David Keel­ing and oth­ers. Bett also has a glo­ri­ous ar­ray of Abo­rig­i­nal works, in­clud­ing some truly spec­tac­u­lar pieces from the Utopia com­mu­nity in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory. Price tags be­tween $20,000 and $30,000 for some of th­ese demon­strate they pieces of na­tional sig­nif­i­cance.

At Bat­tery Point, Trudi Young runs the Colville Street Art Gallery, pri­mar­ily fea­tur­ing Tas­ma­nian artists such as Stephen Lees, Stephanie Tabram, Mi­lan Milo­je­vic and Paul Grundy. Prices here sit mainly in the sub-$5000 range, mak­ing them at­trac­tive to smaller col­lec­tors. Ac­cord­ing to Young, Tas­ma­nia is in­creas­ingly a des­ti­na­tion for artists and buy­ers who have time while vis­it­ing the is­land to en­joy gal­leries.

There’s quite a num­ber of artists who have moved to Tas­ma­nia or gone away and come back be­cause it’s eas­ier for them to live here,’’ Young says. The in­ter­net has also changed things for us be­cause artists can live here but sell else­where. About 30 per cent of our sales are from in­ter­state or over­seas, so it’s a lot eas­ier than it was.’’

Also worth check­ing out is the Des­pard Gallery on Castray Es­planade, which has a quirky mix of wares, and Hand­mark Gallery at 77 Sala­manca Place, which has a plethora of lo­cal works, in­clud­ing block prints and mixed me­dia pieces, for un­der $1000. And if you don’t fancy stay­ing at the Henry Jones, the Is­ling­ton, a luxe pri­vate ho­tel in the sub­urbs of Ho­bart, has a laud­able art col­lec­tion on dis­play for guests.

For art lovers, Ho­bart will be an even more ap­peal­ing des­ti­na­tion when the pri­vate gallery of es­tab­lished col­lec­tor David Walsh opens at Moo­rilla Es­tate next year. Housed in a pur­pose-built construction on the site that holds a mi­cro-brew­ery and top restau­rant, the gallery is ex­pected to be world class.

No won­der, then, artists are flock­ing to Ho­bart. Clearly it’s the place to be. El­iz­a­beth Mery­ment was a guest of Tourism Tas­ma­nia. www.the­hen­ryjones.com www.mas­ter­piece.com.au www.bettgallery.com.au www.colvillestree­tart­gallery.com.au www.des­pard-gallery.com.au www.hand­mark­gallery.com

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