Celebrating 15 years of Hugo Michell Gallery
As Adelaide’s Hugo Michell Gallery has grown so, too, have the artists it represents. Now it is presenting an eclectic and fun collection of work taking visitors on a journey over the past 15 years.
An installation view of the exhibition 'Celebrating 15 Years of Hugo Michell Gallery'. Photo: Sam Roberts / supplied
Hugo Michell Gallery in Beulah Park is celebrating a milestone – and what better way to mark the occasion than with an exhibition showcasing the incredible talent on its books? All 29 represented artists have contributed works highlighting the broad range and high standard of artists that director Hugo Michell has drawn upon to create his stable.
When Michell reached 10 years in the business, it was an opportunity to reflect on his career and early art-world influences such as Paul Greenaway from GAGPROJECTS and Jan Minchin from Tolarno Galleries in Melbourne. Approaching this 15-year anniversary and comparing then to now, there is a sense that the gallery has made some significant developments and has established itself as one of Australia’s leading commercial galleries.
Michell says he couldn’t have achieved what he has without the support of his team (Ceridwen Ahern, Jenna Pippett and Gabi Lane), along with his stable of artists.
“We are so fortunate to work with such an excellent group of artists, who are continually kicking goals and creating challenging, distinctive and meticulous works,” he says. “The number of residencies, awards, and recognitions being too great to count.”
Gallery director Hugo Michell. Photo: Alice Healy / supplied
While some artists have moved on, there are many artists who have been with Michell since the beginning.
“It’s nice looking back over the years at artists who we started working with early in their career. The gallery has grown and they have grown with us.”
Take Richard Lewer, for example. His first exhibition with the gallery was in the project space in 2010. In 2018, his nine-panel work The History of Australia was acquired by the Art Gallery of South Australia. Earlier this year, the National Gallery of Victoria acquired what was to be an entire exhibition, without it ever going on display. It will eventually be unveiled at the NGV’s Triennial this December.
Other highlights of the last 15 years include James Darling and Lesley Forwood’s collaborative installation Living Rocks: A Fragment of the Universe, exhibited at Hugo Michell Gallery in 2018. The exhibition then went on tour to the Venice Biennale (2019) and later Germany (2022). Another key moment was when Sera Waters’ body of work presented in the 2022 Adelaide Biennial: Free/State was acquired by AGSA and then toured to Korea for the Busan Biennale.
While many businesses were negatively affected by the pandemic, commercial galleries rode the wave well. People were stuck at home and wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things, and there was an upsurge in art purchased online. Post-COVID, Michell wanted to continue this momentum and move forward.
“We didn’t want to go backwards we wanted to power ahead,” he says.
“It wasn’t just COVID that influenced this. At that 10-year mark we really looked at what we were doing and started strategic planning sessions looking at where there were gaps in what we were exhibiting. We started bringing new artists on and creating more opportunities for emerging and early-career artists in our project space gallery.”
The exhibition: Celebrating 15 Years of Hugo Michell Gallery. Photo: supplied
As well as some strategic planning to ensure the gallery was servicing a wide audience, Michell’s tastes and interests have evolved over time. There are more painters in the mix now than there were five years ago, and he is working with more Indigenous artists. The most recent artists to join the stable are painters Georgia Spain and Zaachariaha Fielding, both of whom have included strong pieces in the anniversary show.
Spain’s Everything Old Is New Again, with its loose gestural brushstrokes, focuses on the idea of history repeating itself. The artist blends figurative and abstract elements to create paintings that capture the chaos of contemporary life. Another standout work is Clara Adolph’s painting, Mountain Pass. Adolph explores notions of memory and time by recreating scenes from old photographs. Her works are both mysterious and familiar as she breathes new life into discarded memories.
Celebrating 15 Years of Hugo Michell installation view, featuring Clara Adolph’s Mountain Pass (far right) and works by Sally Bourke and Justine Varga. Photo: Sam Roberts
Other highlights include Min Wong’s new velvet wall hanging works, I can’t get enough of myself, and Janet Laurence’s Maps that melt the memory of ice, which were inspired by her travels to Antarctica during the summer of 2021-2022 as part of the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship. Alongside the artists already mentioned, others featured in the anniversary show include William Mackinnon, Fiona McMonagle, Trent Parke, Narelle Autio and David Booth [Ghostpatrol].
Celebrating 15 Years of Hugo Michell Gallery is an eclectic mix of work that reflects what the gallery is all about. It’s a fun exhibition that gives audiences a chance to explore work by some of Australia’s most talented artists working in a range of media.
“It’s not necessarily a thematic exhibition because it can’t be; it’s 29 different artists all making different things, says Michell. “But that’s what makes it – that’s the theme. It represents us and our gallery. I think audiences will love it because it’s such a journey.”
Celebrating 15 Years of Hugo Michell Gallery is showing until December 9.