The Plimsoll is the University of Tasmania’s gallery, located at the Tasmanian School of Art on Hobart’s waterfront. The gallery is a little tricky to find as it is tucked away underneath the art school, which is housed in the majestic old IXL jam factory. The gallery has a rotation of three week curated exhibitions with an emphasis on international and interstate artists, although there are often quite a few artworks by Tasmanian artists on show. The Plimsoll Gallery, in my opinion, is one of the best contemporary art spaces in Hobart, showing an eclectic mix of exhibitions, which are usually quite challenging and cutting-edge, but occasionally regresses a little. Unfortunately, over the summer, in Hobart’s busiest tourist season (and when the gallery’s icicle-like temperatures are actually productive), the gallery is used for research post-graduate examinations, and is closed during the week. However, the post-graduate examinations are generally open to the public the weekend following examination, so check out the gallery’s website before you visit.
To get to the Plimsoll, you have to walk through the windy art school tunnel, which houses the Tasmanian University Union-run gallery, Entrepôt. All students enrolled at the University are eligible to apply, both postgrad and undergrad, and as a result, the gallery showcases a wide range of art styles, and more notoriously, standards. Nevertheless, there are few restrictions placed on exhibitors at the gallery (I think there are three rules: you can’t burn the gallery down, brick the door up, or sleep there), and I’ve seen some pretty wacky exhibitions there over the years.
CAST (Contemporary Art Services Tasmania)
CAST is similar in its focus on contemporary art to the Plimsoll, but with an emphasis on local art. Located in Tasma St, North Hobart, and harder to find than the Plimsoll, they have a strangely difficult space to show work in despite its regular cubic shape (for some reason even the most imposing sculptures tend to shrink in the space). As the name of the organization suggests, CAST provides services beyond the gallery, assisting artists with grants, advocacy and other such necessities, and is run by an enthusiastic group. They also have some great annual programs such as the Emerging Curator Mentorship, the 3 into 1 show for emerging local artists, and the fun CAST members show (December), which by sheer necessity, is hung salon style.
Inflight is Hobart’s (relatively) long-running Artist Run Initiative (ARI). My previous guide to Hobart galleries described Inflight as "more challenging to find than the Plimsoll and CAST combined… plus some. Inflight is hidden behind the toilets, which are behind the garbage bins, behind the carpark, behind Kaos café..." Not any more. The gallery has recently moved to new premises on the CBD's fringe, 100 Goulburn St. The work there often wants to be innovative and [insert contemporary art buzz word here], with various level of success, but it’s always worth a look. While you're there, make sure you have a coffee and a bite to eat at Pigeon Hole, which is just across the road.
The TMAG is hit-and-miss when it comes to contemporary visual art, although there's a lot more being exhibited than when I first moved to Tasmania nearly 8 years ago. The museum is currently undergoing a much needed redevelopment, and thus the available gallery space has shrunk significantly. It's still not certain where the money's going to come from, so I don't want to guess at a finish date to the renovations.
The church-turned-house-turned-gallery, Detached, was unveiled in 2008 to co-host Mike Parr’s The Tilted Stage with the TMAG. It’s privately owned, but behaves like a well-endowed public gallery when it's (rarely) open. To be honest, I don’t really know much about the gallery, but I like what I’ve seen so far. Detached is located in Campbell St, just around the corner from the TMAG.
The Carnegie Gallery is a Hobart City Council-run gallery hidden above the Maritime Museum in Argyle St (this hiding-the-gallery thing is turning out to be a massive theme in this post). It has an eclectic range of exhibitions, ranging from the best that contemporary art can offer, to the Australian Glass Society’s members’ exhibition. Ignore the Maritime Museum attendants when you enter. They’ll glare at you, but just keep walking up the grand stairs.
The Salamanca Arts Centre houses a number of galleries. The largest gallery is the Long Gallery, which again has an eclectic mix, and they’re less discriminating than most of the other galleries listed above. Pretty much anyone can hire the gallery One weekend you might find a blaring sound art exhibition and a room full of finches jumping on amped up guitars, the next you’ll stumble across a show by the Tasmanian Embroidery Club. This week, for instance, a fundraising exhibition boasts 'Tasmania's Top Artists', even though I've never heard of any of them and the paintings are appalling. Go figure. Next to the Long Gallery is the Sidespace and on the very top floor is the appropriately titled Topspace. The Long Gallery, Sidespace, Topspace, and Kelly’s Garden (an outside, gravel-filled space) all accept proposals, and there’s usually at least one good exhibition on at any one time.
Salamanca Arts Centre is also home to a couple of artist coops, the best of which is called Handmark. In addition, there are a number of ‘craft ‘n’ art’ shops, many of which are pretty banal, although the jewellery shops are quite good.
Bett Gallery is a commercial gallery, and part of the Hobart furniture. It shows quite a mixture of art, although painting seems to be the predominant medium of choice. They also favour male artists. In addition to their shop front in North Hobart, they show work in Raincheck Lounge, a coffee shop just down the road, although these shows tend to exhibit the work of younger, emerging artists.
MONA (Museum of Old and New Art)
The Museum of Old and New Art is, in the words of Maria Kunda, "hip in a way that is a little bit goth, a little bit country and a little bit rock n' roll." (Artlink, vol31 no1, 2011) It opened in January this year, and if you're visiting Hobart, there's no way you can give this museum a miss. Catch the ferry to the museum from the Hobart waterfront, drink a martini on arrival in the void bar, and get lost in the art. The exhibitions change regularly, so check the website for current information, ferry times and entry costs. The associated MONA FOMA sound and music festival takes place in January every year.