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Arts-Matter is All About Art in Intimate Settings and We Want in on the Guestlist

Meet the curators who created a new way to experience art (and artists) that was born out of the pandemic.
By Suz Tucker
October 20, 2021
By Suz Tucker
October 20, 2021

The salon is back. Not the hair salon (although that is very much back too, thank god), I'm talking Paris in the 18th century. Social gatherings where artists, writers and other enlightened folk could discuss big ideas without needing to stick within the guardrails of polite society.

Admittedly, this could describe your last afternoon hit out at the pub. But a couple of Sydney-based curators and culture aficionados are bringing back the concept of the artist salon as it was originally intended — and to be a fly on the wall would be a pretty killer ticket.

Susan Armstrong and Michelle Grey are the duo behind Arts-Matter. They curate events that bring together artists from various mediums — from painters to product designers to hip hop artists — and host them in intimate settings to spark conversations around society, creativity and cultural values.

It all started in the first of Australia's lengthy lockdowns when restrictions were preventing people from accessing art in the usual means via tangible exhibitions, galleries and shows. So Armstrong and Grey took the unprecedented circumstances as an opportunity to try something a little different.

"While there's always been incredible programming offered at our favourite museums, galleries and institutions, their events can sometimes be genre-specific — an artist talk at a gallery, or a music performance at a concert hall," explains Armstrong. "We wanted to provide people with a broader cross-section of the cultural arts."

"Creativity thrives when silos collide, and many of us are interested in hearing interdisciplinary discussions with thought-leaders across the cultural gamut, from fine art to music, theatre, fashion, architecture, literature and film. We've also found that by hosting small salon-style events in private homes, guests open up and connect in a way that's not always possible in a public venue. Plus, you were allowed to drink while standing up, which was a big bonus!"

Excellent point.

In the year since Arts-Matter was conceived, Michelle and Susan have brought together an impressive lineup of Australia's most fascinating creative talent to speak and perform, including Genesis Owusu, Ben Quilty, Ngaiire, Tony Albert, Dinosaur Designs founder Louise Olsen, Ramesh Mario Nithyendran, and Rafael Bonachela.

The pandemic has in many ways changed the way we experience art, from the emergence of virtual galleries that can get you a front row look at the great masterpieces to the increasing popularity of NFTs. But is digital the future for artist and art lovers alike? In a word: nah.

Says Armstrong and Grey: "We've seen an explosion of promotion on social media — which gives viewers an intimate peek into both the professional and personal lives of the artists we love — and a whole host of digital and virtual shows and art fairs, but nothing beats human connection so we know everyone is excited to get back in touch with the physical world!"

"In these troubled times art has the power to heal and unite, and at the same time it's also an important marker of history. Humans need art to express their individual and shared stories. Art and creativity can provide great catharsis for communities, and after almost two years of a global pandemic, we're all in need of a bit of emotional release."

You can follow the future projects of Arts-Matter here.

Published on October 20, 2021 by Suz Tucker
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