The James Gleeson oral history collection
James Gleeson interviews Australia's major artists
6 March 1979
James Gleeson: Of course. Well that was a problem. So you couldn’t have foreseen at that time that in fact Paddington would become the art centre?
Rudy Komon: But, you see, I was first of all thinking that as it is close to the city and close to important, I would say, districts like Darling Point, Point Piper, Vaucluse, Bellevue Hills, where all the people, the rich people lived where they had these beautiful houses without pictures. That they one day will become clients and will try to buy and decorate the picture, take the prints, or the reproduction of prints, off their wall and change it for originals.
James Gleeson: So it really was a very strategically placed area for a gallery.
Rudy Komon: Yes, it was, but it was a risky thing in any case.
James Gleeson: Rudy, what do you remember of the galleries in the fifties? My recollection is that there were very few of them. I can think of the Macquarie Gallery of course that had been going for a long time.
Rudy Komon: Yes, there was only Macquarie Gallery and then there was a gallery in George Street.
James Gleeson: The Grosvenor.
Rudy Komon: The Grosvenor run by Taylor, but that was not a gallery in the right word. Then they were not having exhibition, they were selling picture even if the pictures were some of very good quality.
James Gleeson: Yes. They dealt mainly in very conservative work.
Rudy Komon: Very, very, yes.
James Gleeson: Was the Clune Gallery operative by the time you opened?
Rudy Komon: No, no, no. That come much later in King’s Cross.
James Gleeson: I see. There were occasional exhibitions at places like David Jones and the Blaxland.
Rudy Komon: Yes. David Jones, Blaxland Gallery were at this time, but they were not regular, they exhibited just when they felt like, and they had a different exhibition. They had not only paintings, they had furniture and antiques displayed, so that was not true picture galleries.
James Gleeson: Rudy, I remember at that time there wasn’t any real interest in art; nothing like the interest that developed in the sixties and seventies for instance.
Rudy Komon: No, no.
James Gleeson: The dealers at that time had a different attitude to artists and the public. They were more like—oh, I don’t know—shops where they put up the work for a period.
Rudy Komon: Yes, where they were selling on commission basis, what they could get.
James Gleeson: Yes.
Rudy Komon: Yes. Very few important exhibitions at this time were launched, with exception the Macquarie Gallery which had good artists all the time.
James Gleeson: Now, you introduced a new note altogether. I suppose, is it a continental attitude?
Rudy Komon: Yes, it was continental and American that gallery has an artist on the contract and he’s handled by the gallery all the time. Not only in the city where the gallery is but in other places like Melbourne, like Brisbane, like Adelaide, and even as far as Perth.
James Gleeson: Well, that was an innovation because I remember we rarely saw art by any one but the Sydney artists in Sydney before the fifties. You must have been instrumental in bringing into Sydney and taking Sydney artists elsewhere.
Rudy Komon: Yes, so you see the first artist which came from Melbourne, there was a group, they were probably known only when occasionally they exhibited in the Wynne Prize, in the Archibald Prize, but not one-man shows. So they came only through me like Len French, Fred Williams, Pugh, you see, Brack, Blackman, Perceval at this time, and later Arthur Boyd and Nolan. Then at this time they were overseas.
James Gleeson: So you’ve spread you net very widely. It includes the whole of the Australian sort of art scene. You’ve arranged shows by Sydney artists also in other capitals?Rudy Komon: In other states, yes.