Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery: The First 40 Years

Rebecca Varidel
13th Feb 2024

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, one of Australia’s pre-eminent commercial galleries, today announced an exhibition to mark the launch of its major new publication. The opening of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery: The First 40 Years published by Formist, will coincide with the official release of the book tomorrow 14 February. The exhibition will be on display until 2 March 2024.

Curated by the publication’s author and editor Felicity Fenner, the exhibition will feature artworks and excerpts from the book that pay tribute to four seminal decades of the Gallery. In the book, which shares the exhibition title, Fenner’s voice provides the central narrative and is augmented by around 50 contributions from leading artists, curators and art world figures including Bill Henson, Tracey Moffatt, John Kaldor and Djon Mundine. The publication is bookended with a Foreword by Anna Waldmann and Afterword by Paul Foss.

As a physical homage to the history of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, the accompanying exhibition celebrates the role that the Gallery has played in fostering the careers of some of the most respected Australian and international contemporary artists of our time.

Since the Gallery’s inception in 1982, more than 350 artists have exhibited their work at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, with artists hailing predominantly from Australia as well as from Europe, the United Kingdom, Asia and the United States. A rich tapestry is woven through essays, extensive photography and individual voices that showcases the history of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and the story of recent Australian contemporary art.

The line-up of painting, sculpture and photography selected by Fenner and Oxley for the exhibition comprises works by all currently represented artists (36), 20 of whom have been integral to the Gallery’s evolution for over 20 years, and some who have shown with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery for over 40 years (Gareth Sansom, Jenny Watson, Dale Frank, Julie Rrap and Geoff Lowe aka A Constructed World). Additionally, works from the estates of Bill Culbert, Rosalie Gascoigne, Bronwyn Oliver and Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu are represented. Also included in the exhibition is a library of international books and catalogues featuring Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery artists, testament to their standing in the international art world.

Roslyn Oxley, Founder and Director of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, said: “The launch of our first ever book would not be complete without an exhibition to celebrate the work of some of the most important artists to provide context for the rich melting pot of content within its pages. It has been four decades since our inception and we are so proud to invite Felicity to curate this exhibition that brings together the many represented artists that have offered their creativity, experimentation and uncensored ideas.”

Felicity Fenner, renowned Australian curator and Associate Professor at UNSW said: “It was an honour to be invited to author this important publication and curate an exhibition to accompany its launch. Over the last couple of years it has been wonderful to connect with all the artists and dive deep into the Gallery’s impressive archive, researching what has made Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery such a continuing pivotal player on the Australian and international art scene.”

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery: The First 40 Years shows how the gallery has evolved over four decades, the number of art world luminaries featured within the pages of the book revealing the impact and reach of the Gallery’s role as an advocate for art and artists within Australia and globally.

The book, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery: The First 40 Years, will be officially launched to coincide with the exhibition opening on Valentine’s Day 2024, where copies will be available for purchase at an exclusive launch price of AUD $100. The book will be available for purchase via the gallery shop and at good bookstores nationally.

Artist quotes featured in the exhibition and book:

Roslyn thought I was somebody. I was not. I just knew people, and people knew me or my work, a different thing altogether … But Roslyn was ambitious, not for herself, but, I understood, she was ambitious for Australian art – rather, the best of Australian art to be approached in the same way as art from anywhere. - Dale Frank.

There was a bus you could take from Melbourne that cost about 30 dollars and I would arrive in Sydney at seven in the morning, hang around, have a coffee and arrive at the gallery at ten where I dumped my bag in the office and was allowed a nap on the black leather couch … At that stage Roslyn and I both had long red hair and often someone would poke their head in the office and say ‘Hi Roslyn’ as I was lying on the couch. After that happened a few times, Roslyn said ‘Jenny, get up’. - Jenny Watson

The opening was exciting though I didn’t really know anyone, and the crowd seemed to be Sydney society rather than artists, but Edmund Capon did give a lovely supportive speech of the gallery and its aspirations without directly referring to me or my art. - Gareth Sansom

At the time of visiting my show at Central Street, Roslyn mentioned that she and Ace Bourke were planning to open a gallery in Macdonald Street, Paddington, and asked if I would be interested to exhibit there. I politely informed Ros that I didn’t show with commercial galleries!!! However, some months later I was working on a new body of work that I wanted to exhibit and so I contacted her ... This first exhibition consisted of large photographic screens with a series of slide projections on the stairs leading to the basement space, where I had installed photos with dead leaves and chalk texts on the floor. Definitely not that saleable! - Julie Rrap

In 2005 I met Roslyn and Tony again in their wonderful castle home, at a party, or maybe it was at Frieze, and then Art Basel, Miami, in those early days before art fairs were fun. I was approached by them to do my first solo exhibition at the gallery in 2006 with light boxes and photographs from the True North series. They sold like hotcakes and the rest is history! - Isaac Julien

I think Roslyn is only frightened of one thing, boredom. The more ambitious you are with your work and plans, the more ambitious the Oxleys become for you. The less an artist does the more likely they’ll fade from Roslyn’s frontal lobes. She needs to be excited about things. - Bill Henson

I liked that Roslyn and Tony were always very inclusive of people and cultures outside of their ‘circle’; they were in a sense hippies and their parties could get wild. I was always thrilled for the invitations and glamour since I was living in a shabby terrace house in Glebe at the time. One party was for the painter Juan Davila and he was handsome and wore great suits and he was charming and he talked to me. - Tracey Moffatt

Artists represented in the exhibition include:

A Constructed World
(Geoff Lowe and Jacqueline Riva)
Daniel Boyd
Brook Andrew
James Angus
Del Kathryn Barton
Daniel Boyd
Robert Campbell Jnr
Bill Culbert
Marley Dawson
Destiny Deacon
Mikala Dwyer
Dale Frank
Rosalie Gascoigne
Fiona Hall
Newell Harry
Louise Hearman
Bill Henson
Isaac Julien
Kirtika Kain
Jim Lambie
Linda Marrinon
Tracey Moffatt
Callum Morton
Dhambit Munuŋgurr
David Noonan
Bronwyn Oliver
Patricia Piccinini
Tom Polo
Julie Rrap
Gareth Sansom
Renee So
Kathy Temin
Imants Tillers
Jenny Watson
Kaylene Whiskey
John Wolseley
Nyapanyapa Yunupiŋu

Roslyn Oxley 9 Gallery: The First 40 Years
Published 14 February, 2024

Because the history of Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery is reflective of - and intertwined with - the history of Australian contemporary art, the publication offers a significant educational resource, with extensive installation imagery of exhibitions presented at the Gallery in chronological order from 1982 through until the current day. This is interspersed with a large number of social photographs documenting exhibition openings and events over the years.

With a foreword from Anna Waldmann, former Director of Visual Arts for the Australian Council for the Arts, the book features and has contributions from around 50 artists, curators, collectors and patrons of Australian art including Gareth Sansom, Jenny Watson, Dale Frank, Julie Rrap, Luca Belgiorno-Nettis, Djon Mundine, Marc Newson, Nicholas Baume, Amanda Love, Bill Henson, Fiona Hall, David Noonan, Tracey Moffatt, Callum Morton, Destiny Deacon, Isaac Julien, Imants Tillers, Mikala Dwyer, Del Kathryn Barton, Jim Lambie, Brook Andrew, Tom Polo and Kaylene Whiskey.