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Now to focus on artistic sensibility

The Australian Financial Review Thursday 31 July 2008

Terry Ingram


Clouding the festivities surrounding last night's opening of the Melbourne Art Fair, which will sell contemporary art from 80 galleries over the next four days, the move is, in part, a knock-on from other gallery closures.

It highlights the difficulty artists at the bottom of the pile, in terms of recognition and saleability, will have a toucher economic climate, and the need for gallery owners not to spread themselves too thinly across too large a number of artists, who tend to need regular counselling and hand-holding.

Olsen, who recently bought and renovated a new gallery building in Jersey Road, Paddington, says he wants to concentrate more on the secondary art market, and describes the move as a 'consolidation' of his resources in light of slower market conditions.

His resale operation has a solid foundation in works by his father, John Olsen, which tend to come to the gallery because of its name (the Tim Olsen Gallery).

Two of the top artists affected by the closure of Sherman Galleries, Tim Storrier and Michael Johnson, has been signed up by Olsen, who has one of the biggest spreads of artistic talent in the industry.

A slower market in recent weeks, as the financial crisis began to bite, has enabled him to rationalise the operation, he says, and a new list of the artists he represents will go up on his website shortly. His bestselling artists include David Bromley, David Larwill and Melinda Harper.

Olsen says he wants to talk to each artists affected before making any public comments about who is going.

As the son of an artist he says he feels particularly charged to observe artists' sensibilities in this way.

The move follows the switch of once-neighbouring Jersey Road dealer, Michael Nagy, from gallerist to trader, leaving 20 artists without homes. His formed business partner Michael Carr also closed his gallery earlier this year to concentrate on dealing.

The conversion this year of Sydney's Sherman galleries into an art foundation also resulted in many new artists looking for homes. Melbourne's Anna Schwartz has taken on Australian 2009 Venice Biennale representative Shaun Gladwell, and Hossein Valamanesh went to Sydney's Grant Pirrie Gallery.

Bill Wright, a former director at Sherman, is opening a new gallery in Sydney next year that is expected to represent another Sherman artist, Wright's partner, Hilary Mais. But, generally, it seems that the explosion of new gallery openings in Sydney has come to an end.

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