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Conversation  |  Director, Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects, Melbourne

Dianne Tanzer

In Conversation
5 August 2013

Dianne Tanzer established her gallery, Dianne Tanzer Gallery + Projects

in Melbourne, Australia in 1990. Established as an exciting platform for Australian contemporary art, it continues to deliver a robust exhibition program. This year the gallery is undergoing a significant shift as it joins forces with another Melbourne stalwart, Helen Gory Galerie. They will retain their unique identities, but share a space, with this third arm of the gallery officially bearing the title: THIS IS NO FANTASY, inspired by the neon “truisms” of Jenny Holzer. The galleries propose collaborating more closely on projects that are off the grid, such as art fairs and international exhibitions. Anna Dickie recently caught up with Dianne Tanzer to discuss the Australian art scene, her collaboration with Helen Gory Galerie, and the significance of participating in art fairs, having been at Art Basel Hong Kong in May this year and currently preparing for the 2013 Auckland Art Fair in New Zealand where she will be showing work by Michael Cook and Juan Ford

Tell me about where art started for you?  

I thought I was destined to become a historian, but instead I turned to art. My early influences were the painters of the Renaissance - they fulfilled all my criteria… what can't you learn from works that centre on death, love, power, corruption and all the life experiences in between!

I love being part of the continuum of art - to be able to see the past, and look into the future – to me, this is the durability of great art.

Neal Benezra, Director of SFMOMA, said that his love affair with art began with Clyfford Still’s work, Untitled (formerly Self-portrait). Was there a particular piece that you recall as being the catalyst for your own interest in art?

I have many favourite contemporary artists such as Christian Boltanski, Anselm Keifer & Gregory Crewdson to name a few; and of course I must draw once again from the past, Georges de la Tour and his work Christ in the Carpenters Shop with the child holding the candle - that is staggeringly beautiful. Holbein is another favourite with his Portrait of a Lady with Squirrel and Starling.

How would you describe the Australian art scene now, compared to the 1990s?

It’s a whole lifetime away! It's much less structured now. There aren't the boundaries there used to be; artists are curators, curators are gallerists and artist run spaces are commercial galleries. At times the lack of hierarchy and structure can make for a pretty heady brew, so there can be many disappointments as the expectations are huge; but then again the rewards are so great. I feel the possibilities are now boundless! 

What have been the most significant changes?

The rapid changes and development of the Internet and global communication has liberated artists from their dependence on galleries. It's also liberated galleries as they are no longer locked into an annual calendar but can also work on national and international projects. Our website is an incredibly important tool for our business - in an era where people are time-poor their gallery-crawls are turning into Google-searches and online marketing is becoming increasingly important. However, I must stress the importance of the physical gallery space as the ultimate destination for both clients and artists.

You recently joined forces with Helen Gory Galerie. To what extent is this move a reaction to the need for galleries to re-visit their traditional modes of exhibition?

It is definitely a key factor in our change. The art world is constantly changing, and we need to keep re-inventing ourselves to continue to present an innovative program. We have been participating in international art fairs for a few years now and this new venture allows us to continue to do this successfully. It brings more ideas together and allows us to combine our skills to work on bigger projects. 

Your new collaborative space (which is your current space) bears the name “THIS IS NO FANTASY”, a reference to Jenny Holzer. Why this reference?

We wanted a name that evoked something exciting and but also a sense of the unknown. We thought it also worked as a comment on the nature of the art world and what we do. It is also a tangible reference to contemporary art – it has been interesting to see who has made these connections.

What can we expect from the new collaboration?

More of what we have already been doing - but more streamlined. We have previously exhibited in KIAF Korea; LA Platform, USA and Art Stage Singapore and obviously the logistics of exhibiting overseas can be very difficult, so it will enable us to share the large costs associated with these ventures such as freight and transportation.

You showed at Art Basel Hong Kong earlier in the year. What was your experience of that fair?

It was an amazing fair and a very successful one for us. We were very proud to exhibit Juan Ford's work which by any comparison is world standard, and it was very well received and purchased by many international collectors. It also enabled us to make contact with some very significant collectors in Asia, and we intend to go back in 2014.

You are showing work by Juan Ford and Michael Cook at the Auckland Art Fair. Tell me a little more about these artists and why you felt they were right for Auckland?

This is the first time we have participated in the Auckland Art Fair, so naturally we hope we have made the right decision. Juan Ford's work is already held in a private collections in Auckland and we hope Michael's work will follow suit! At the end of the day it doesn't matter what country you exhibit in as people recognise universally significant art. — [O]

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