Culture

Adelaide’s 7 Best Hidden Art Galleries

Why SA’s capital is a haven for artists.

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Do you know which Australian capital city hosted the country’s first national, all-female contemporary art exhibition in 1977? Move over, Melbourne. Step aside, Sydney. Adelaide’s got this one – and has done for decades. The city is a veritable haven for visual artists.

While the Art Gallery of South Australia, Samstag Museum and Tandanya are indisputable icons, Adelaide also supports a thriving network of risk-takers and rule-breakers running galleries, workshops and artist-run initiatives across the CBD and beyond.

Scholarships made available by Carclew Youth Arts and Anne and Gordon Samstag give Adelaide’s emerging artists a running start. Further support from the folks at Arts SA, Renew Adelaide and SALA (South Australian Living Artist festival) ensures sustainability for the established visual arts scene.

If you want to see this work up close and personal, swing by any of the Festival State’s best independent galleries. We’ve done the leg-work and drawn you up a shortlist.


#1 Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia

Where: 14 Porter Street, Parkside

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Folk death by Julia Robinson, 2014 – 15, from exhibition One to rot and one to grow.

CACSA (originally the Contemporary Art Society) was established in the ‘40s, when a rag-tag group of young Adelaide artists said “yeah, nah” to the Royal Society of Arts, and started their own happening. Since then, the space has been dedicated to exhibiting and publishing some of the most innovative contemporary art and commentary in the country.

Curator Logan Macdonald favours critical thinking, diverse ideas and interdisciplinary processes. The gallery often places works by South Australian artists alongside national and international pieces, so exhibitions have a local and global relevance. CACSA’s ability to engage young and/or uninitiated audiences in the oft-intimidating world of contemporary visual arts gives the gallery an accessible energy, and makes this space a must-see.


#2 Australian Experimental Arts Foundation

Where: 15 Morphett St, Adelaide

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X-Factor by Matt Huppatz, 2015, from exhibition WORK!

The Australian Experimental Arts Foundation (AEAF) is situated in the historic Lion Arts Centre precinct. The gallery space, bookshop and residency studio is neighbour to the independent Mercury Cinema, the Media Resource Centre, the Jam Factory and a university campus. The whole area is a hive of artistic activity, hidden in the city’s infamous west end.

Exhibitions at the AEAF present new work from local and interstate artists, and expand on debates and ideas being bandied around in contemporary art and culture. The Foundation is particularly interested in research-driven works with outcomes that resonate beyond the gallery’s walls. There’s also an archive and research library on premises, with a comprehensive catalogue of all AEAF projects mounted since 1974.


#3 Fontanelle

Where: 26 Sixth St, Bowden

adl-hidden-galleries-fontanelleCompared to Adelaide’s older institutions, Fontanelle is a relative new kid on the block. Opening doors in the made-over suburb of Bowden in 2012 – thanks to significant support from Renewal SA – Fontanelle quickly became an incubator for some of SA’s best emerging artists, curators and writers.

Director Brigid Noone has assembled a tip-top team of artists to run the space. Practitioners at all different career points exhibit, experiment, debate and collaborate to their hearts’ content here, across two galleries, a technical workshop, an installation space, and an area for workshops and lectures.

The Fontanelle squad is huge on community engagement. As well as holding boundary-pushing exhibitions, they run an array of artist-led workshops, teaching everything from terrarium making to digital stop-motion for kids. This place is a bubbling hub of inspiration.


#4 Format Systems Inc.

Where: 80 Hindley Street, Adelaide

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How to describe Format? Imagine if Warhol had run the Factory only on West End Draught tinnies and kale chips. Does that make sense? It’s probably not meant to, and that’s fine.

Format Systems Inc. is a tri-level CBD space that packs in a gallery, live music venue, coffee machine, zine and record store and then some. Its DIY arts program and day-to-day hijinks are perilously steered by the Format Collective, a gang of young artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers and self-appointed “party technicians”.

As well as hosting exhibitions all year round, the Collective is responsible for the annual Format Festival. It returns in November 2015 to quietly terrorise the city with random acts of public art. Be alert but not alarmed if you see mass karaoke versions of perennial ‘80s pop favourites unfurling in Adelaide’s finest alleys.


#5 FELTspace

Where: 12 Compton Street, Adelaide

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Like I’m Apart, 2015, by Steven Cybulka.

Rounding out Adelaide’s F-centric arts triforce is FELTspace, founded in 2008. Another fabulous artist-run initiative, FELTspace fosters the work of emerging, mid-career and established artists alike. You’ll find them operating straight outta Compton St, across from the Adelaide Central Markets and Chinatown district.

FELTspace is an integral site for developing, exhibiting and discussing new art in SA. The team knows that creating an enthusiastic arts community means making space to discuss what’s happening in what’s hanging in the gallery. So FELTspace launched a writers’ program to help publish the written work of artists, curators and commentators, and to encourage discourse about their exhibitions.

Beyond their four white walls, FELTspace also produces ephemeral public art projects. FELTnatural is known to take over Adelaide’s parklands, while FELTmaps hauls art to the built-up and natural landscapes of Port Adelaide.


#6 Tooth and Nail

Where: 22-28 Coromandel Place, Adelaide

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(Photo: Tooth and Nail/Facebook)

A gallery, printmaking supply store and workshop, and home to 40 artist studios, Tooth and Nail is that rare breed of venue that can genuinely pull off serving drinks in jam jars – each vessel even screws neatly into the wall behind the bar.

Established in 2011, the art and design enterprise soon outgrew its original home near the Adelaide Central Markets so they relocated to a multipurpose warehouse in the heart of the city, where they can now be found on Coromandel Place.

Monthly exhibitions and a solid stable of designers keep the place ticking over, fuelled by artist-run camaraderie and more than a spoonful of goodwill. It’s no coincidence that affable co-manager Jake Holmes is one of Adelaide’s best, most prolific printmakers. He and the Tooth and Nail crew uphold the traditions of a hands-on craft, which surely would’ve been Photoshopped out of art history, were it not for places like this.


#7 The Mill

Where: 154 Angas Street, Adelaide

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One of the city’s newest art spaces, The Mill is the joint venture of co-directors Amber Cronin and Erin Fowler. The young entrepreneurs have created a gallery and studio space that hums with activity and brims with possibility. From professional development opportunities, to curated public events, The Mill serves up innovative art as part of an everyday diet for consumers and practitioners alike.

This nurturing space nourishes SA artists not only by providing a professional launching pad for exhibition and performance prospects, it also accommodates 30 in-house artists. Additionally, The Mill sports the photographic facility The Analogue Laboratory, which offers darkroom hire and immersive workshops that teach the alchemy of shooting photos on film.

With a strong focus on artist development and process, The Mill facilitates production and conversations for artists of many and varied disciplines.

(Lead image: Kontaktraum Ausländer (space of contact_foreigner) by Joe Felber, CASCA.)

South Australia is a seriously creative state. It’s not only home to world class art spaces, it’s also home to a huge variety of art, culture and lifestyle festivals and events. Click here for more info.