Re-invigorating spaces: Niagara Galleries and Block Projects join forces

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Published in Artshub 18/02/2014

The art industry is diverse, dynamic, and dictated by raw and seasoned talent; it engages with works of art that encapsulate an era, capture fleeting moments or express the very processes of the problematic relationship between art and life. Whether cultivated societies or primitive ones art enhances life in its depiction of the human condition. Art however is driven by a market economy and reaches its audience by via exhibitions and art dealers. Two of the most respected gallery owners in Melbourne known for their integrity and dedication to creating careers for their artists have decided to bring their artistic visions and knowledge together. The merger between Block directorsJeremy Kibel and Yasmin Nguyen and Niagara director Bill Nuttall is one less motivated by financial advantage and more fuelled by the desire to create a new forum and, as a team, establish a larger client base.

Jeremy Kibel speaks of the project  as an opportunity to share knowledge and set challenges for each other. Their common aim, Kibel notes, is creating novel contexts for their artists: ‘It will be a revitalization that reflects how they see the art industry and their new objectives will change the way art from both spaces is presented and experienced by an audience’.

Kibel is highly respectful of Bill Nuttall’s programs that he has implemented for the past thirty five years and admires how he has cultivated serious artists and providing careers for them. Artists such as Paul Boston, Rick Amor, JanSenbergs and Ken Whisson belong to the Nuttall stable. Kibel has been drawn to experimental painters and presenting works in innovative curatorial styles.  He, a successful artist, created Block Projects in 2006 and, as well as experimenting with curatorial presentation, has focused on emerging and mid-career artists though he emphasizes that his philosophy in promoting artists is cross-generational believing that his selections are based on the quality of the work whether belonging to the very young, mid-career artists or major artists some of whom are in their twilight years.

Kibel and Nuttall have long shared a core group of clients; they bump into each other at international art fairs whether in Hong Kong or London. They are exemplars of what good, knowledgeable ethical dealers are all about. The coming together of Kibel, Nguyen and Nuttall represents a new brand of strength and they will seek to share each other’s knowledge and create innovative exhibitions as well as setting challenges for each other. The choice of two spaces will enable them to change contexts and facilitate different kinds of audiences. It is what Kibel refers to as ‘mixing up the contextual vision’ and he speaks of exhibiting major historical works in new contexts.

Kibel envisages that the combined strength of the three players will empower them to be involved in more international art fairs and that the new equation will take unwanted stress from each. From Kibel’s perspective the merger will allow him to spend more time in his studio, which is necessary, he quips ‘for his sanity’. Kibel has had and continues to have success and international recognition for the magazine Vault (co-owned by graphic designer and gallery owner Simon Hayman), which has been trade-marked and recently been introduced to New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Alex McCulloch