The Space – No Vacancy Gallery

Published:  August 30, 2011
Alison Copley
The Space – No Vacancy Gallery

Words: Alison Copley

No Vacancy Gallery
QV and Federation Square, Melbourne

The story behind No Vacancy Gallery proves that it pays to be a little daring sometimes. “I basically wrote a proposal to Grocon, asking them to give me a space in Melbourne’s QV Shopping Centre for free,” gallery manager, Andrew Chew reveals.

Chew had just moved to Melbourne from Sydney, where he ran the graphic design studio, Sense Assault, and had experience in managing artists and events. He was looking to start something in Melbourne and, while working in a retail job at QV, had been eyeing the shop opposite, which had been empty for about two years. Chew prepared a calendar of events from art connections he’d made and, a little recklessly, submitted a proposal to operate a gallery in the space rent-free. In a triumph for Melbourne’s art scene, Chew got what he wanted. “The commercial rent for that space was $180,000 a year; however, they gave it to me rent–free for six months. The lease ended up turning into a year and that was the launch of No Vacancy Gallery.”

No Vacancy Gallery at QV

That was three and a half years ago and a busy, but content Chew sits in front of me now, still grateful at the generosity he was shown. That generosity extended to the very first show held at the gallery, where each artist donated 50 percent of their proceeds back into the gallery. “In the beginning, our ethos was to support Australian and Melbourne-based artists, and no one else. We were just trying to give something back for what was done for us in the early stages. “We now hold about 40 events a year. Most run for about two weeks, but we do hold a few one-night events. Part of the success is that we haven’t pigeonholed ourselves into doing street art. We’ve done many things, which bring different demographics to the gallery,” says Chew. The last year has also seen No Vacancy extend into the heart of Melbourne’s arts precinct with a spot in Federation Square. The Project Space has low overheads and allows the team to be a little more experimental in both project choice and execution.

Chew is ambitious and knows what he wants No Vacancy to be. “The main problem for me, that I’ve found over the past couple of years, is being known as a gallery that can sell work. People would come and drink free alcohol and hang out – that comes as part of the culture – but at the same time, you want artists to come to the gallery and say, ‘I want to sell some work’,” he explains.

No Vacancy Project Space at Federation Square

With Chew’s business partner Tim Dawson stepping away to travel and an internship manager and gallery assistant recently joining the team, Chew hopes to focus his time on No Vacancy generating more of its own shows. “At the moment we feel like we’re losing a lot of creativity. We’re just relying on other people to bring their own shows, so in 2011 we’re looking forward to exploring a lot more fun and interesting concepts.

All images copyright Andrew Chew.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Andrew,
    Are you seeking new artists for next year?
    Sharon Greenaway

  2. Yes! Always… check out the website for contact details.

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