People

Interview – Sophie Gannon

by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 3rd August 2012

Sophie Gannon Gallery.  Painting and ‘The Birds’ sculpture by Michael Zavros.  Photos – Sean Fennessy
Sophie Gannon Gallery.  Artwork left – Claudia Damichi ‘Light Conversation’, and right – Kirra Jamison ‘Spirit is a Bone’.  Photo – Sean Fennessy
Sophie Gannon Gallery, Richmond. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
Sophie Gannon in her Richmond gallery.  Painting by Michael Zavros, sculpture by John Nicholson.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.

I am always inspired when I meet super clever, hard working women running their own creative businesses.  Melbourne gallerist Sophie Gannon certainly falls into this category.  Sophie opened Sophie Gannon Gallery in Melbourne in 2006, at the ripe old age of 27!  Starting with six high profile artists, who each took a chance on this promising young art dealer, Sophie now represents 18 incredible and varied names in the Australian art world, from superstar established names such as Cressida Campbell and Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, to highly collectible emerging talent including Kirra Jamison and Julia deVille.  The growth and success of Sophie Gannon Gallery over the past six years is a testament to Sophie’s incredible ambition, drive and sheer hard work.  It’s a fine balancing act – Sophie manages her clients, her artists, exhibitions, art fairs and family life with incredible energy and optimism!

I first met Sophie earlier this year, when photographer Sean Fennessy and I had the great opportunity of shooting her beautiful home in Melbourne.  It was such a fun shoot, Sophie was so warm, so chatty and kind of endearingly anxious (hey, we were photographing every corner of her house, I guess a little anxiety is normal!).  There was a comforting, familiar feeling of household morning chaos, as Sophie made us each a coffee, dragged the vacuum cleaner out of view, and handed her gorgeous bub Arabella to her babysitter.  There was no sense of the pretension or hype you might imagine from someone with serious ‘art world’ credentials.  That’s the thing about Sophie – she’s not quite what you might expect of a respected and highly successful art dealer.

But despite being disarmingly friendly, make no mistake – Sophie is an absolutely no-nonsense business woman!  She knows her industry inside out, and with a Commerce / Arts degree, she really does have the perfect combination of skills for this job – a burning passion for the arts, plus serious business acumen!

Massive thanks to Sophie for sharing her story with us today!  If you’re in Melbourne, do head over to the Melbourne Art Fair this weekend (it’s AMAZING) and be sure to check out the Sophie Gannon Gallery stand, where Sophie is showing a great cross section of her artists’ work.  Sophie also has a shared stand at the fair, with Brisbane gallerist Jan Murphy, where work by Michael Muir, Danie Mellor, Kirra Jamison and 2012 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize winner Leslie Rice is on display!

Year round, of course, Sophie’s gallery in Richmond is also always worth a visit! –

Sophie Gannon Gallery
2 Albert st
Richmond
Vic, 3121

Ph (03) 9421 0857

Gallery hours 
Tuesday – Saturday 11.00am – 5.00pm

Can you tell us a little about your background – where did you grow up, what did you study, what path led you to founding Sophie Gannon Gallery in 2006?

I am a Melbourne girl – I went to the University of Melbourne and studied Commerce/Arts with a major in Accounting and French/Art History. I always wanted to be in business (hence the Commerce degree) but I wasn’t sure in what field. I have had lots of people in my life who have worked with creatives on the business side (my uncle Ben was a television and film producer) so I always thought I’d end up in some sort of creative field.

I worked at an accounting firm while I did my Honours in Art History. My first job after uni was at Sotheby’s in Armadale as PA to Mark Fraser (most recently Mark set up MONA for David Walsh) and from there I was offered a job in Brisbane as gallery manager at Philip Bacon Galleries.

I really wanted to make a career out of the arts and Philip Bacon Galleries is the best in the country, so I took the opportunity and moved up to Queensland. I gained an amazing amount of experience working with Philip on exhibitions such as Jeffrey Smart and Margaret Olley. But I was keen to be my own boss so I moved back to Melbourne and opened Sophie Gannon Gallery in October 2006.

Julia deVille exhibition ‘Sarcophagus’ – installation details.  Photo – Sean Fennessy
Julia deVille exhibition ‘Sarcophagus’ – installation detail.  Photo – Sean Fennessy
It must have been an immense learning curve in the early days of launching your gallery. I remember when we first met you talked about the Dutch courage of being late-twenties and basically taking the plunge with a kind of naïve optimism! What were your greatest challenges at this time and how did you overcome them?

It was really important for me to start with a strong stable of artists. I started with six high profile and highly successful artists who didn’t have representation in Melbourne (amongst them Nicholas Harding and Michael Zavros). They took a chance on me, because I was a 27-year-old with huge ambitions and who knew if I would succeed or not.

One of the biggest challenges in owning a contemporary art gallery is managing the tension between art and commerce. The two are constantly straining against each other – too much commercial success often results in claims that artists have ‘sold out’, but success allows an artist to pursue their career and focus on their practice. The balance between commercial and critical success is very important to achieve and manage in this industry.

What have been one or two defining moments for you in recent years?

We have achieved great success at our two Melbourne Art Fairs (and hope to emulate this at this year’s Fair). Our stable of artists also continue to achieve huge success – gallery artist Judith Wright is currently in the Sydney Biennale (both at the MCA and Cockatoo Island) and just last week Michael Zavros unveiled his painting for the Bulgari Art Award and Leslie Rice won the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize (for the second time). I could keep going!

Sophie Gannon Gallery installation for the Melbourne Art Fair this week  – Julia deVille peacock on wall and Nicholas Harding ‘Caravan Park (annex dog)’. Photo – Sean Fennessy.
Sophie Gannon Gallery installation for the Melbourne Art Fair this week.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.
What does a typical day involve for you?

The first thing I do when I arrive at the gallery in the morning is go through my emails. I am one of those people who has to see my inbox in one screen. Then the day is a flurry of speaking to artists, responding to queries from clients about artworks, arranging upcoming exhibitions, liaising with curators and other galleries, emailing images, strategising the future exhibition calendar and promotion. We work four to six weeks ahead of what is currently showing, so right now we are working on our show in September. Then once the gallery closes I head home and change pace to become a mum to Arabella again!

Sophie Gannon at work in her gallery office.  Painting on wall – Michael Muir ‘Weird Fish’, striped perspex work far right – John Nicholson ‘Asymmetrical Access’ and also work on desk ‘Inside/Outside’, sculpture with black and white ‘trees’ – Vera Moller ‘Devilla’, and in the foreground, a detail of Michael Zavros’ bronze ‘Black Orchid (Paphiopedilum Vanitas)’.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.
Can you name for us 5 resources across any media (i.e. 5 specific journals, magazines, websites, blogs or other) which you visit regularly for a bolt of creative inspiration, or just to be kept in the loop!?

I unsubscribed from heaps of blogs/websites recently because my inbox was out of control. I subscribe to NOWNESS and TDF (I’m not just saying that!) and read the Financial Times‘ Arts and Leisures pages. I purchase the Financial Review every Thursday for the Salesroom section and I keep up with social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.). And I am obsessed with radio. If I had to choose it would be radio over print and TV for me anyday. I go to sleep listening to ABC talkback…

Can you name one or two emerging Australian artists to watch right now?

Emily Ferretti for her whimsical paintings of the ‘everyday’ (check out her ‘snooker table’ at the Melbourne Art Fair) and Michael Muir who is also exhibiting at the Melbourne Art Fair. We have a solo show by Michael Muir coming up at the gallery in October.

Sophie Gannon Gallery installation at The Melbourne Art Fair this week.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.
What are you most proud of professionally?

The gallery! It has been going strong for nearly six years and I’m really proud of the artists I represent. My gallery manager Edwin Nicholls is fantastic and I like to think we are a friendly, approachable and professional gallery. I’m proud of the job we do!

What would be your dream creative project?

The gallery has presented some amazing creative collaborations (most recently the exhibition ‘Art Loves Fashion’ for the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival) so I’d love to push these collaborations a bit further and across more disciplines in some way… still working on that!

But for me personally I have a few ideas that involve me as producer, because I lack creative ability myself. There is an idea for a series of children’s books (bestsellers for sure!) and an idea for a new radio station…

What are you looking forward to?

A holiday! I’m going away to somewhere sunny at the end of August and am working like a maniac now so I enjoy the break.

Melbourne Questions

Your favourite local neighbourhood and why?

South Yarra – I love it. It is close to the city and central to everything. There are great cafes and restaurants, the Botanic Gardens, Como House, Prahran Market and I love the inner city bustle.

Where/what was the last great meal you ate in Melbourne?

We went to Moon Under Water at the Builders Arms in Gertrude Street last week. The food was delicious. At the dinner we were told about the name ‘Moon Under Water’ – it’s from an essay that George Orwell wrote describing in great detail his ideal ‘public house’. It was also the Gertrude Projection Festival at the time, which has got me thinking about a projection somewhere at home to turn on each night!

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

Up early with my husband Frazer and Arabella, walking with the pram to Movida Bakery or Kanteen for breakfast. Then off to work. Saturday is a work day for me.

Melbourne’s best kept secret?

I love the Yarra River around Burnley/Toorak/South Yarra. I can walk a big loop from home on the bike path and see kookaburras, parrots, ducks, swans and other bird life (I sound like a birdwatcher – Arabella loves looking at birds so I’ve started taking notice). On the same loop you can walk through Loy’s Paddock in Burnley (an amazing open grassy space), past rock climbing walls under the freeway and Burnley Harbour and wetlands where they dock the river boats. All of this smack bang in the middle of inner city Melbourne.

Sophie Gannon Gallery.  Painting by Michael Zavros, sculpture by John Nicholson.  Photo – Sean Fennessy.

 


by Lucy Feagins, Editor
Friday 3rd August 2012

10 comments

  • Kathy Joyce 2 years ago

    Beautiful gallery with good mix of artists. Very inspiring. I will definately be visiting when next in Melbourne.

  • zhen 2 years ago

    I love this interview it is very inspiring! I must visit the gallery and than blog about it.

  • Av 2 years ago

    Wow! Necklace!

  • Really enjoyed this interview and now a visit to the gallery is on the list. Those Michael Muir paintings are just beautiful! I’ll be looking out for the solo show in October. :)

  • Roz 2 years ago

    Totally inspiring. Love her “eye” for great work.

  • Brenda 2 years ago

    Love Sophie’s gallery and her eye for fab contemporary art. Love the insight into her background Lucy! I hope to be part of her stable someday. xo

  • Ainslie 2 years ago

    sophie, lovely to see what you’re up to. clearly a great success – well done!!! ainslie bloom x

  • mekalie 2 years ago

    Awesome interview and insight into this side of the creative world – thanks! Also loving her necklace! It is a piece of art in itself ..

  • feyza 2 years ago

    Details on the necklace please. It’s fabulous!

  • Dillon McCallum 1 year ago

    Wow, from one extreme style to the next. Great work.

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