Art is at the core of the Apple Isle
Galleries abound, writes Elizabeth Meryment
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