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In the beginning
Australian Galleries was established in Melbourne by Tam and Anne Purves in June 1956. The space was originally the Purves’ pattern manufacturing business in the inner suburb of Collingwood. They supplied the all-important patterns to the local fashion industry which was centred around the warehouses in the adjoining streets.
Together their vision and driving force resulted in the development of what was then, an extraordinary idea. They started a commercial gallery to show the small group of culturally important post-war Australian artists emerging in Melbourne who at the time had nowhere to seriously show and sell their work. The first painters to exhibit at Australian Galleries included artists who went on to become some of Australia’s greatest ever, such as Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, John Perceval and Albert Tucker.
Anne and Tam pioneered the professional exhibiting and marketing of contemporary art in Australia. From the beginning, their gallery developed a reputation for representing prominent Australian artists and along with the aforementioned, included other great names, John Brack, Justin O’Brien, John Olsen, Brett Whiteley and Fred Williams.
Stuart Purves, the youngest of three children, joined his parents in the gallery in 1966. After the death of Tam in 1969, Stuart and Anne ran the gallery until her death in 1999.
Now under the sole directorship of Stuart Purves, and with 15 staff, Australian Galleries continues to represent significant contemporary Australian artists including Inge King, Colin Lanceley, William Robinson, Garry Shead, Jeffrey Smart, Tim Storrier and John Wolseley along with the Estates of George Baldessin and Lenton Parr as well as a role in the Estates of Arthur Boyd, John Coburn, Lloyd Rees and Brett Whiteley.
A passionate advocate of artists, Stuart Purves’ role as director is to ensure Australian Galleries remains vital and viable so that the artists they represent can air their views through the exhibiting of their work and survive and prosper.
Stuart has expanded the business to include six galleries, four in Victoria and two in New South Wales. In recognition of the need to honour the status of prints, drawings, watercolours and photography, one gallery in each state specialises in works on paper.
The move to Sydney in 1989 provided a strong, extended audience and client base, as well as closer contact with artists living in New South Wales.
The Melbourne galleries are situated in Collingwood - the Derby Street Gallery is at the original site of 35 Derby Street, with the Stock Rooms directly across the road at 28 Derby Street. The Smith Street Gallery is located 100 meters up the road at 50 Smith Street and the Cambridge Street Gallery is at 42 Cambridge Street, around the corner from the original gallery. In Sydney they are in key locations in Paddington with the Roylston Street Gallery at 15 Roylston Street and the Glenmore Road Gallery at 24 Glenmore Road. All locations offer high quality design features to facilitate the display and storage requirements of the works.