Oxley makes plans on a fresh canvas

INSIDE SYDNEY: Leading Sydney gallery owner Roslyn Oxley yesterday confirmed major changes to her contemporary art business, including a dramatically smaller stable and plans to move from her Paddington landmark. "We had an offer for this space which really surprised us," she explained. "So we're considering the move because, economically, it's really too good an opportunity." With commercial galleries enduring a sluggish market, Oxley said she has no option but to meet the challenge.
"What we're doing is contracting. We're fairly small, in terms of personnel, and it's become very hard to manage artists properly. So we're paring down our stable.
"At McDonald Street (her earlier Paddington exhibition space) we could have five shows running at once. But in this gallery we can only have one or two at the most - and I find we're only concentrating on the artists we're really interested in.
"It's not fair to the others. So perhaps they'll get full attention somewhere else."
Oxley nominated 17 artists as a workable target - and said claims that she had 72 on her books at the height of the 1980s boom were "absolute garbage".
She added: "At our peak we probably had 35. But that's not full representation. At any one time you've only got the capacity to represent fully 12 or 15 people at a maximum."
In slashing numbers Oxley is echoing the trend set by new players on the Sydney scene such as Gene Sherman's Goodhope Gallery and the Sarah Cottier's new gallery in Newtown (scheduled for launch late this year).
Both are entering the market with small, select stables - and have secured representation of some of the biggest names in contemporary Australian art, including former leading lights from Oxley's gallery such as Dale Frank (now with Sherman Goodhope) and John Nixon (Sarah Cottier).
Oxley worked for 20 years as an interior designer (both in Australia and in New York) before returning to begin her gallery in an old rented warehouse in McDonald Street, Paddington, in early 1982.
Showcasing risky, emerging artists, Roslyn Oxley Gallery was an inst ant success.
Oxley had the foresight to buy a warehouse in Soudan Lane, Paddington, before the 1980s property boom - and relocated there in March 1990 after a lavish refurbishment.
"We always planned to move here, if we couldn't buy McDonald Street," she recalled.
"And we're not thinking of selling this place - just renting it out and relocating the gallery.
"But the whole thing is still under wraps, and I'm not going to tell you anymore until we've completed it."
On the current market, she summed up: "It's become more and more difficult... Quite frankly, I'd prefer to sell socks.
"But the art's the thing and, although it's hard, it's a fabulous business to be in.
"I'm very optimistic about the art that's coming out of Australia. It has a real edge that keeps coming through, and this is without doubt a very exiting time."
Caption: Illus: Roslyn Oxley ... "Quite frankly, I'd prefer to sell socks." Picture by DEAN SEWELL
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Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Publication date: 10-7-1993
Edition: Late
Page no: 15
Section: News and Features
Length: 605
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First published in The Sydney Morning Herald

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