Industry Interviews

Roslyn Oxley
Art gallerist

June 06, 2018

Contemporary art gallerist Roslyn Oxley has owned and operated her namesake gallery alongside her husband Tony Oxley for over 30 years, with a longstanding commitment to the advancement of the most innovative forms of contemporary art. Having fostered the careers of the most influential Australian artists working today, including Tracey Moffatt, David Noonan, Fiona Hall, Bill Henson and Dale Frank, Roslyn shares her rich history with us.

Tell us how you came to start your gallery Roslyn Oxley9 gallery… 

I have always loved the visual arts. I began with a background in design which progressed into working with fine art. I worked in design for 25 years with very prominent architects and during my early career working as an interior designer, I would put together collections for commercial spaces and office buildings. This ignited my passion for advising people on which artwork they should collect and for trusting my eye. As well as being interested in curation, I was most intrigued by the business and operational aspects of running a commercial art gallery. So, when a friend suggested that I open my own gallery in the 70s, I thought to myself “why not?”.

Finding the right venue was an important and long process. It took me a year to discover a space that felt accessible and spacious. I opened my first gallery space on McDonald Street in Paddington, Sydney in 1982. My strategy for finding artists to show was based on finding fresh, young artists who had not been shown in Sydney before. It was really exciting and really fun. I went through the Biennale archives and frequently visited Melbourne discovering the brilliant Gareth Sansom, Bill Henson and Jenny Watson among others.

What formal education in the arts did you undertake?

I attended National Art School, Sydney in the 1950s and Paul Colin School of Art, Paris in the 1960s. Even though I was majoring in interior design, I was also trained in paintings and sculptures.

What is the overarching goal or purpose of your gallery? What kind of artists do you hope to support and showcase?

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery has a rich history of promoting cutting-edge contemporary art, and for fostering the careers of some of the most influential artists working today, including Tracey Moffatt, Fiona Hall, Brook Andrew, Patricia Piccinini and Imants Tillers. We aim to discover and present the most exciting artists. And I think we do. We have a full stable of artists from young to old, both emerging and established, and ones who span across the globe.

What’s your take on the interplay between fashion and art?

The worlds of art and fashion have co-existed and collided for centuries. Art and fashion are quite similar in some ways where both exist as a form of expression, a vestige of the time we live in, and a binding agent that brings people together. Artists and designers are similarly vulnerable to subjectivity and the constant flux of popularity.

Does your personal style in any way reflect your taste in art?

No, not at all. My personal style is very minimalistic and I’m in all black on most days, while my taste in art is rather diverse and experimental. Just look at our stable of over 40 artists, they are all individualistic, multidisciplinary art practitioners.

What advice would you give other aspiring gallerists or curators?

One of the most important things is understanding your own responses. Some people don’t know why they like something. If an artwork captivates you, you should investigate, find out why you are drawn to it and look further. Peeling back the surface layers of art is so fascinating.

My advice for other aspiring gallerists is preparation, organisation, perseverance, passion, building relationships and a sense of community around the gallery.

What has been the hardest part about running your own gallery?

Staff and their partners getting pregnant. (chuckle)

What role, if any, does social media play in the growth of your business? And do you use it personally?

Social media plays a huge part in the growth of our gallery. Since our first Instagram post in 2013, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery now has over 36,000 followers. It’s totally fascinating how people communicate and receive information nowadays.

What’s exciting you next?

I am really looking forward to our artist, Imants Tillers’ major retrospective at the Latvian National Museum of Art in Riga, opening on the 6th July 2018. Tillers is one of Australia’s most celebrated contemporary artists, and this is hugely important and personal to the artist. This exhibition not only is a tribute to Tillers’ parents who arrived in Australia as ‘displaced persons’, it celebrates the centenary of Latvian independence.

You can find Roslyn on Instagram @rosylnoxley9

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