On regretfully realising at the age of seven that I could not actually be an African Elephant with big, floundering ears, my second choice was to lecture in history at a university. After studying Arts & Law degrees, and many years working in London, Melbourne & Sydney, and then opening a Christie’s representative office in Brisbane, both love & a love of teaching brought me back to Sydney in 1995.
In 1996 while teaching at UNSW, writing weekly on a Saturday as Art Market Analyst for the Business section of The Australian newspaper & working part-time at the Aboriginal Legal Service in Redfern, as a defence lawyer, I was asked to consult on the formation of a photography collection. Art advisory remains to this day about a third of the galleries business, and that Melbourne photography collecting family were my first client, and they remain a client to this day. We are the best of friends.
In 2004 having published a book on ‘How to Buy & Sell Art’ with Allen & Unwin, I increasingly felt a need ‘To Do’, as opposed to merely analysing and observing the art world. So, I dipped my toe in the art sales water, with a small Indigenous art salon exhibition from my house in Redfern. These exhibitions were successful, and the business eventually grew from an upstairs windowless office and sitting room “gallery”, with a grand move to a magnificent terrace in Roslyn Gardens, Elizabeth Bay.
I distinctly remember receiving a landline telephone call, at my country house in Murrurundi, in the Upper Hunter of NSW, from an old university friend late one summer. My close college friend launched into the conversation with “do you know that I own a house in Elizabeth Bay…”, that call, and that friendship, changed my professional life. Indeed, living as he was in London, he did own rather a grand, large, three storey house in Roslyn Gardens. “Have a look at it” he said, “let your imagination run riot with what you could do with it”. My imagination went into Revolution mode and it was from 2006, in those ten years in Elizabeth Bay, that the foundations of my art gallery matured and grew.
The floor was being used as a warehouse for an import clothing company. On inspecting the space, I noticed that the workers were cutting off the labels “Made in China” and sewing on a label of a well-known American fashion brand. Up-cycling and repurposing they were. So, we repurposed once again. The Sydney gallery’s aesthetic was based on the feel and values of our then well-established sister gallery in Berlin. German, industrial, practical. Frank but not brutal surroundings, paired back and sweepingly honest.
Our Sydney gallery and team of specialists are experts in contemporary painting & sculpture, with a reputation as one of Australia’s leading contemporary photography galleries. With our base in Surry Hills, plus galleries in Newport, Murrurundi & Berlin, the story doesn’t end here. We dream. We grow.
– a brief history of the evolution of Michael Reid Sydney, by Gallery Chairman & Director Michael Reid OAM