News & Exhibitions 2011 News

Brummels: Australia's first gallery of photography

22 October 2011 — 22 January 2012
Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road
Wheelers Hill VIC

“...campaign headquarters for a generation of photographers”

Brummels Gallery of Photography was established in 1972 by the prominent photographer Rennie Ellis. As such, it was the first gallery in Australia dedicated to exclusively showing photography.

Over an eight-year period Brummels not only hosted a remarkable range of exhibitions by many artists, but it was also the social scene and campaign headquarters for a generation of photographers lobbying for artistic recognition.

MGA’s exhibition will feature the work of 19 photographers who exhibited at Brummels between 1972 and 1979, including work by those who went on to establish significant careers including, Rennie Ellis, Carol Jerrems, Ponch Hawkes, Sue Ford, David Moore and Wesley Stacey.

The exhibition will pay tribute to this important moment in the history of Australian photography, and allow audiences to reflect on the artistic styles and concerns of the time.

MGA curator Stephen Zagala states, “The artists who exhibited at Brummels deserve to be recognised as the avant-garde of Australian photography. Their work clearly laid the foundations for what we now recognise as contemporary photomedia art.”

Located above a restaurant in South Yarra, the humble gallery space was the hub of an emerging community of art photographers. On 14 December 1972, photographer and film-maker Paul Cox officially opened Brummels’ first exhibition Two Views of Erotica by Carol Jerrems and Henry Talbot. Over the next eight years the gallery staged over 70 exhibitions that featured the work of about 100 contemporary photographers.

Established photographers of the time embraced the opportunity to exhibit photographs of a personal and experimental nature, while a new generation of students, able to study photography in an art school context for the first time, showcased their emerging talents.

As MGA Director Shaune Lakin states: “Brummels is a perfect story for MGA to tell: it’s about the moment in Australian photography’s history when, in the hands of an avant-garde, highly social and entrepreneurial network of men and women, photography became art and art became photography. The legacy of Brummels continues to be felt today in many of the artist-run spaces and galleries we now have in Melbourne and also in the acceptance of photography as a vital medium. On top of this, the work exhibited at Brummels was amazing: diverse, adventurous and highly influential.”

Working closely with Manuela Furci, Director of the Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive, the exhibition draws on a remarkable body of vintage and archival material, including photographs from the National Gallery of Australia and the National Gallery of Victoria collections.

Manuela Furci, states, “Rennie struggled to attain the financial support needed from patrons to keep the doors of Brummels open. There were a few however, who wholeheartedly supported the ideals of gallery.  Journalist, Philip Adams was one, who in a letter accompanied with a cheque congratulated Rennie on what he was trying to achieve but also declared: “In Russia, they’d make you a Hero Worker of the Soviet Union. In Japan, the Diet would declare you a national treasure. Here the philistines will probably break your heart”

Artists include Robert Ashton, Godwin Bradbeer, Warren Breninger, Ian Dodd, Rennie Ellis, Sue Ford, George Gittoes, Gerard Groeneveld, Ponch Hawkes, Carol Jerrems, Peter Leiss, Steven Lojewski, Rod McNicol, David Moore, Jean-Marc Le Pechoux, Jon Rhodes, Wesley Stacey, Geoff Strong and Henry Talbot.

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