With a small team, Emilya Colliver, the founder and director of Art Pharmacy, runs an online gallery plus pop-up exhibitions to promote and sell the work of emerging Australian artists at affordable prices. She recently launched Culture Scouts which traipses the backstreets of inner city neighbourhoods to show nimble enthusiasts Sydney’s diverse art and culinary scene – from meandering down laneways to discover knockout street art to authentic Italian gelato tasting. She also offers offers art consultancy services for both private and corporate clients. Emilya shares her thoughts on appreciating and purchasing contemporary art with a refreshingly democratic attitude.
Can you tell us about Art Pharmacy – when you launched it and why?
I was lucky enough to study Art History at UCL in London and I worked at some of the most world-renowned galleries and institutions, which was incredible. But the artworks I was exposed to were only for the super wealthy. When I moved back to Australia, I found a vast group of highly talented emerging artists who had very little exposure. I launched Art Pharmacy in 2012. It brings original artworks at an affordable price to buyers who would ordinarily not be able to find such a broad range of unique works. My aim was to introduce those artists to buyers. Art Pharmacy does all the marketing, website management and PR, so artists can concentrate on doing what they do best.
What inspired you to break out and start your own business in such a niche Australian market?
Starting Art Pharmacy allowed me to continually meet new people, and of course immerse myself in all things creative in this wonderful city. It is a niche market, but I don’t think it should be. I try to break down the perception that buying art is a high-brow, white walls experience.
What other services does Art Pharmacy provide?
We have hosted pop-up exhibitions in the past which allow buyers and artists to meet in an informal environment. Also, we can work with our buyers and artists for commission pieces, where an artist will create a unique piece in their style, but to a certain specification of the buyer. Art Pharmacy Consulting, which launched last year, takes this further and offers consulting for your home, business or events through our great relationships with up and coming artists. From sculpture to murals, paintings to illustrations and all in between, we have access to quality works that will give your space a visual edge. Our clients so far include Mirvac, Foxtel, Nespresso, Luke Mangan, and more.
Many people assume that collecting contemporary artwork ideally requires basic art history knowledge, ample free time to visit public exhibitions and commercial galleries, plus sufficient funds. How do you debunk the common perception that you have to ‘know about art’ in order to appreciate it and start collecting?
Art is there to be enjoyed on face value. If you like a work, then buy it. Don’t worry what other people might think. Of course, like anything, there is always a deeper meaning to art, and I always like to give further insights into our artists and artworks about what inspires them, their background, why they have painted or made something in a certain way, etc. So it’s there if our buyers want to know more, but collecting art doesn’t have to be about that.
In 2015 you launched Culture Scouts – walking tours to discover hidden gems (including vibrant street art) down the laneways of inner city neighbourhoods and visits to spaces lesser known amongst the general public. Tell us about the variety of tours you organise.
Our tours currently focus on a few key areas – Newtown, Chippendale/Redfern, and Surry Hills – with more to come soon. Tours are between 2-6 hours and focus on a whole range of creative and cultural themes including street art, cafes and restaurants, galleries and unique retail outlets. You can book through our website www.culturescouts.com.au. We also can create a custom tour for larger groups, be it holidaymakers or companies looking for teambuilding experiences.
Of all the share office spaces in Sydney, what drew you to working at Paramount by The Office Space and how does it bolster your business?
The best thing about Paramount is the people you get to meet. It’s real hub for like-minded creatives and inspiring thinkers. The space has such a visual impact too with stunning design elements throughout, so clients visiting me for meetings are very impressed, which definitely helps my business.
Lastly, what are your current favourite Sydney areas to wander down for street art?
Come on a street art walking tour of Newtown with our guide Melinda Vassallo, who has written a book on street art in Australia.
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Header Artwork: BAFCAT