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Gallery, Light-Hearted: NG Gallery

As owner of NG Gallery, Nicky Ginsberg is passionate – about exciting art, about championing local artists both here and beyond, about running a gallery that is serious but approachable, and about the art and emerging food precinct, Chippendale, in Sydney’s city fringe.

Nicky recalls that, “the past 15 years I’ve been working in the art world and prior to that I was in the food world”, the result of which has given her a unique grounding for starting her own gallery, something she’d always dreamed of doing. Ginsberg found a business partner in long time friend and chef Piera Potter, who manages Mission Bar and Restaurant (which we reviewed back in January) downstairs, while Nicky manages the gallery upstairs. Their vision is to ensure the two businesses maintain a separate identity while taking advantage of what each has to offer and for Ginsberg that means she gets to “merge [her] two great pleasures”.

Needless to say, working so closely with a friend can be challenging, but having been friends for more than 24 years, Ginsberg and Potter have learnt the skills to meet those challenges head on, find solutions and move past them. “She’s like a sister really, so it feels like a sisterly relationship – one where you have your moment and then it’s over. There’s too much going on to hang onto it, so it’s good to keep moving forward,” says Ginsberg.

Ginsberg’s experience as an art dealer has given her a strong belief that a gallery should be “a free and open space where people can come and view beautiful art, increase the audience for Australian art, and educate and demystify… to take away the intimidation”.

She is also ardent that a gallery should promote inclusion, however often the opposite is true. For example, the recent sale of Giacometti’s sculpture L’Homme Qui Marche for a rather exorbitant sum tends to reinforce the message that art is for the rich and further confirms the exclusionist attitudes of much of the art world. NG Gallery aims for the opposite experience, where everyone feels welcome, where the space doesn’t take itself too seriously and where the work being shown is local, fresh and intriguing.

As a curator and an art dealer, Ginsberg represents artists that touch a chord with her on a personal, passionate level. The work might make her laugh or cry but it always takes her by surprise, somehow. “We don’t want to be a hugely commercial gallery, that’s not what we’re about.” The artists themselves may be established with a high profile or emerging and breaking new boundaries, but her only criteria is that the work be unique and beautiful. The thing that drives Ginsberg and makes her battle through unremitting council regulations, expensive restoration of a beautiful old building and nearby construction of the Carlton Breweries site is the pleasure she derives from “watching artists grow and find a sense of direction and seeing them develop their artistic career.”

“My biggest pleasure is connecting with the work, which that in turn gives me confidence and empowers me to champion the artist.”

On the other side of the coin, it’s certainly not for the light-hearted. “What keeps me up at night is my passion – I have so many ideas and I want to pursue them all.”

NG Gallery holds workshops for artists at all levels and Ginsberg invites some of Sydney’s best to talk and provide guidance. Once every few weeks NG and Mission together hold a ‘Feast for the Senses’ that combines art, food and fascinating people. Previous nights have included actors, filmmakers, writers such as journalist Richard Morecroft, painters such as Euan Macleod and other interesting bods from a wide range of creative worlds. Food and wine are esoterically matched to the topic of discussion and the numbers and cost are kept low to make the evening accessible and intimate.

Currently showing at NG Gallery is an exhibition by renowned indigenous artist Billy Benn Perrule, whose style departs from traditional dot painting methods and takes on a more flowing brushwork approach. Up next, from March 6 is works by pop artist Johnny Romeo, who considers himself more of a poet than an artist because he “set[s] out specifically to create a poem, using images and writing and pulling them together”.

NG Gallery is located at 3 Little Queen Street, Chippendale.

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words: Kristen Hodges


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