Rental Spaces

Rental galleries are whores that allow anyone who pays to hang on the walls. I had to laugh when Brunswick Street Gallery, one of Melbourne’s biggest rental spaces, was exposed accepted paintings by a toddler. Rental spaces are also known as “vanity galleries” but would prefer to be known as “access spaces”. There are lots of rental gallery spaces in Melbourne, too many to list in this blog, and such a list would be complex, as some galleries and ARIs, are also rental gallery spaces when it suits them. Now, this is not news to most artists but I am also writing about this for a broader public.

Rental space galleries are rarely cost effective for artists; the gallery directors are the ones who are making money from artists who generally have a low income and are in a poor position to afford to speculate on sales of their art. Exhibition in rental spaces galleries in Melbourne are, apart from this blog, unreviewed. And paying for access to these galleries, in my frequent critical opinion, leads to many exhibitions that should have been rejected rather than hung. Some of the rental galleries offer prize exhibitions to attract exhibitor and to demonstrate that they do something for the artist community – I’m not sure if these prizes are of much value other than in dollars and vanity.

Yes, I could go on putting down rental spaces (see the bias in Wikipedia’s entry on vanity galleries) but if there were no rental spaces in Melbourne then what would happen? There is a need for some rental gallery spaces – just as there is a need for prostitutes. It is hard to know what Melbourne artists would do without so many rental spaces; many arts and design courses have an exhibition requirement as part of the course. Other rental spaces are needed by groups, like the Melbourne Contemporary Art Society or for exhibition spaces for Melbourne’s many festivals (Midsumma, Sweet Streets etc. all use rental spaces). Perhaps, if there were no rental spaces, there would there be pressure on local councils, or other institutions, like art colleges, to provide access galleries for artists. Perhaps there would be more artist run-spaces, like 69 Smith St. that serve as a rental space.

The growth in rental gallery spaces in Melbourne demonstrates that they are of some value. There are alternatives to galleries, such as Platform at the Flinders St. Underpass and other spaces provided by local councils, there are pubs, cafes, restaurants and even furniture stores that exhibit art without charging for the wall space but these aren’t galleries. And now when young artists want to make a name they just paint or paste-up their art on a public wall; so will the rental space gallery decline?


About Mark Holsworth

Writer and artist Mark Holsworth is the author of two books, The Picasso Ransom and Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

7 responses to “Rental Spaces

  • Types of Art Galleries « Black Mark

    […] Rental Spaces – Art galleries that are rented to the artist for temporary exhibitions. The gallery does not represent the artists. Rental space galleries are the most common type of gallery in Melbourne. (See my post about Rental Spaces). […]

  • urbanmonk

    thats why I took up “street art” it was the only way to express my artistic voice as the gallery world is a closed loop

  • KOAN

    This article makes no sense. You start by claiming that rental galleries are “whores”, and then continue to make a few incomplete observations to back this up, before switching your position entirely without any explanation.

    Your initial supporting statements are all completely false and totally un-researched. you claim that rental galleries directors are profiteering on emerging artists. What about the guys who run No Vacancy, or 1000£ bend, Get Notorious who are working hard to support the emerging art scene and are always there to provide a large professionally run space when one of us has a project that requires something beyond the scope of a commercial gallery? Is your sweeping statement directed at these people?

    Clearly, you are a ignorant pratt who has no idea what he’s talking about.

    Having worked with the directors of these spaces for nearly a decade I can tell you that they are not motivated by greed or have any ambition to profit off emerging artists, further more I could list a series of successful artists who owe their start to these places which would nullify your argument.

    Then as if your baffling display of complete and utter retardedness wasn’t enough you then go onto claim that apart from this pissy blog no one else is reviewing the shows at these rental spaces.

    Well what about or watim? Both sites would pack up their bags if hits sunk to your astounding 200 a day and both blogs review and represent emerging Australian artists, nice has over 20 artists as contributors. I know how many hits nice gets because I run it.

    But just as we are digesting your statements, wondering if you can back then up with any facts or if you are going to continue with these non sequential observations, you manage to flip the direction of the post entirely.

    With yet another reference to “prostitutes” no less. Is there something you want to share?

    So what is it going to be Mark, are you going to try and get away with asserting that galleries which rent space are profiteers which receive no press or are you going to consider that they are in fact a positive way for emerging artists, group shows and large projects to engage the public?

    Not that the topic is interesting enough to warrant a discussion or that anyone cares what you think. But if you were trying to instigate a discussion with this post, then perhaps you should brush up on your writing skills, or just try and exercise some logic and structure instead of spilling a series of half baked insulting observations onto the page which, backed by no conclusion or coherent thoughts what so ever.

    Also, when writing on a public forum you should be careful what you say. Sweet Street might have to start shopping for a new venue.

    • Mark Holsworth

      Thank you for commenting – ad hominem arguments and threats aside – you might also, want to know that I am no longer on the management committee for Sweet Streets so I am free to write without bias.
      The post is written in the form of an antilogic (yes, it is a classical form with a funny name). An antilogic is an argument that starts with one bias and at the middle switches to the opposite direction demonstrating that the author understands both sides. A very good antilogic will be perfectly balanced, but mine is not an outstanding example of the form.
      Now to the subject of rental spaces. If the topic is “not interesting enough to warrant a discussion” as you say, why did you take the trouble to comment? Or to defend certain gallery spaces? Now we know that the people running rental spaces are making a profit – a better profit that most of the artists renting their spaces – is this exploitation? That would depend on the difference between the rental space income and that of the artists renting the space, if it is a large difference then that is exploitation, if it is a small difference then it is not.
      As regarding prostitution: I think that the story goes that George Bernard Shaw was at dinner and asked the women next to him if she would sleep with him for ten thousand pounds, the woman replied that she would given the large sum of money on offer. Shaw then asked her if she would sleep with him for a farthing. “Mr Shaw, What do you think I am?” she said. Mr Shaw replied: “Madam, we know what you are we are merely haggling over the price.”
      I must visit Backwoods Gallery next time I’m in Collingwood.

  • Alan B

    I maintain a list of pay-to-play galleries, competitions, exhibitions etc here:

    As I mention in the article, they each have to be evaluated on their own merits.

    The previous poster says he has a list of artists who started in rental spaces and are now successful. I’d be interested to see that list please (and the names of the rental galleries where the artists started out). Thank you.

  • Pigment Gallery – Misses and Hits « Black Mark

    […] group exhibition something that rental space galleries do to pay their rent (see my post about Rental Spaces). And it is not as if all the exhibitions at Pigment Gallery are that awful; I have seen some […]

  • Paying to Play – Art & Craft Shops | Black Mark

    […] vanity publishing or a visual artist you will know about rental space galleries (see my post on Rental Spaces). However, there is more to it than the costs in producing and marketing a performance or […]

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