Responding to Nic Graham and Associates’ interior for the new QT Newcastle, art curator Sophie Vander came into the project having worked with Graham previously on QT Melbourne. “He’s just such a joy to work with. He’s just a creative bundle of energy. So it was great to collaborate with him later in the project. He already had the vision but didn’t have the actual artists or artworks in mind,” says Vander.
Taking her cue from Graham’s conceptual starting point of the moon, Vander explored the brief to include tides, the moon’s push and pull, and the romantic ideal of the moon rising over Newcastle Beach. Moreover, Vander is an unafraid curator with a broad knowledge of art and artists; as such, her selection focuses on content and appropriateness to both placement and thematic nuance.
This is not a selection of black and white moon and seaside photography. Instead, Vander has selected artists of significance such as Marion Borgelt, emerging artists such as Theresa Hunt, Tracey Lamb and Daniel O’Toole, and the newly established artists making a name for themselves such as Kate Banazi and Ryan Hoffman.
Borgelt’s work is particularly beautiful and, while wholly appropriate to the brief, is subtle and refined. It is also entirely consistent with her oeuvre, touching on movement, time and energy. “Her overarching general theme about the moon goes throughout her work, but that particular piece was exactly perfect for where it was going to be placed,” says Vander. It is important to note that while Vander has her own gallery, Curatorial+Co., she sourced work as needed, including the Borgelt from Sally Dan Cuthbert Gallery. “We worked with Sally to source that particular work, which was also a great experience for us,” says Vander.
The piece by Ryan Hoffman, who shows with Liverpool Street Gallery in Sydney and Sophie Gannon Gallery in Melbourne, will easily be the most instagrammed. Large, colourful and dynamically realised as a concave disk, the work is both strong and energetically engaged with the space. For Vander, the choice was easy. “That was actually the starting piece for the whole collection. Nic had suggested a concave glowing work,” says Vander, who immediately thought of Hoffman.
Working with Graham at about mid-point in the QT design, she was able to commission the work in colours specific to the space. “We came up with this hot pink, which certainly is a showstopper. So as soon as you walk through the front door, you see that placed, but it also has this beautiful reflection when you look up,” says Vander of QT’s mirrored ceiling.
Commissioning a large seascape by Theresa Hunt for the main restaurant, the theme was again an existing motif of the artist. Having worked in film for many years as a producer, her painting has a cinematic quality with its saturated coloured and edgy mood. “The moon and moonlight are a constant in all her work, so she felt like a really great fit for this whole project being moon themed without being too obvious,” says Vander, who also represents this artist, as well as Susie Dureau. Dureau’s work is another natural fit with the ocean, clouds and mountains as her primary subjects. Dureau worked with a neon fabricator to pair a flash of glass neon with her wild seascapes, which have been realised as a series of tondos (round paintings) that pivot from wall to ceiling.
Vander’s curation for this project is exceedingly good, as is her commitment to having the industry invest in good art, stating, “Guys, you need to invest in these young artists: we can do the whole space for you investing in emerging artists for far less than what you’d pay for renting over the course of five years. It’s so important.”
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