Art Pharmacy – The LAB


The art world needs more people like Emilya Colliver. Founder of Art Pharmacy, and mother of two tiny tots, Emilya manages to support emerging artists through vibrant social media activity, her very sociable pop-up exhibitions and sales of affordable works online. Add to this the preparation, launch, and Sydney Fringe Festival exhibition and events, plus an interview with ABC TV, and I can rightly ascertain that Emilya is busier than me.

Maz Dixon, Sydney Artist is supported by Emilya Colliver's venture: Art Pharmacy

Artwork by Maz Dixon

After attending the media launch this morning with YM photographer, Hannah Anderson, I feel extra gooey. We got to chat to local Bondi artist, Maz Dixon, who’s recent appearance on ABC news with Art Pharmacy saw a sell out of her works on their website. High five to Maz and Emilya! Maz is super talented and so down to earth, like all of the artists and crew we met (we got some numbers and will definitely interview Maz and others soon). I think what stood out for us all this morning was the high quality of work and the sense of Australian culture captured on canvas. But back to this story… you gotta love a massive supporter behind the artists and Emilya is really something else! Our interview with her will inspire to say the least.

How did Art Pharmacy come to life? What is the vision behind the online gallery and events?

I spent 10 years in London, and during that time studied Art History and worked for some amazing galleries and art institutions such as the Lisson Gallery, Hauser & Wirth, The British Museum and Eskenazi. I also worked with a private collector for years, James Birch Esq. where I helped him to look after and document his vast collection of art featuring works by globally renowned artists such as Damien Hirst, Francis Bacon and Gilbert & George.

When I moved back to Australia I didn’t want to go back into a gallery or institution and I quickly started to meet a lot of very talented emerging artists. And I thought, these artists are great and need far more exposure than they are currently getting. At Art Pharmacy we promote emerging artists 2 ways – predominantly online where each artist has their own profile page; and pop-up exhibitions. These pop-up’s are really all about meeting the artists and creating a more social experience with buying art. Of course Art Pharmacy also gives people an opportunity to buy fantastic, Australian art that is affordable. We now have over 55 artists and 600 original artworks on our website available to anyone in Australia.

Rico is on display at The LAB as part of Sydney Fringe Festival 2014

Rico by Haejin Yoo

It’s clear that you L-O-V-E art Emilya, do you create as well?

I wish I had the time! I’m a mother of two (6 month old Hugo & 2.5 year old Scarlett) so they keep me on my toes when I’m not working on Art Pharmacy! One day I would love to have my own studio. I used to paint with oils but sadly they’re sitting there collecting dust – you have to be dedicated to oils and the process is long. But I have recently taken up sewing which gives me a creative outlet.

What have been the biggest challenges for Art Pharmacy?

Finding affordable spaces for pup-up events in the right location. I only found the venue for my Sydney Fringe Festival event – The Lab – just 3 weeks ago, so suddenly its all systems GO, trying to get everything happening for that exhibition. A lot of it comes down to luck, and the right real estate agent! Being a ‘one man band’ entrepreneur I quickly learnt that you have to do a lot of things you never had to do before, like finances, marketing, sales, media, design and events. Not to mention be on top of all the trends with social media, apps, press, website admin, the list goes on. And throw limited time into the mix, as a mother of two, and there’s a lot to be on top of each day.

You will always have experience or natural ability to excel in some of those areas, but it’s the other areas you need to deal with as challenges. I found that asking for help and collaborating helped with the stress levels.

I’m on a tight budget so I owe a lot of favours now to friends and family! The other way I have enlisted help is with interns. I have advertised for graduates who want to gain experience in creative businesses and found this a learning experience in itself, but all in all very successful.

At times I will have up to 6 interns working for me, especially in the lead up to a pop-up exhibition, and that can be tough to manage, but there’s no way I could have pulled off the events without them. And for that I am hugely grateful of their attitudes and maturity.

Art Pharmacy supports emerging Australian artists through pop-up galleries and online gallery sales.

Artwork by Stuart Smith

If you could change any one thing in the Australian Arts, what would it be?

To have more engagement from the average person and to encourage philanthropy. I believe this starts in the younger generations as young as primary school. I don’t think arts are really appreciated as much as we could or should.

When viewing properties to rent or to buy it’s clear that not many people own art, and if they do it’s usually an Ikea print or something bought off the shelf at Freedom. We need to start supporting local artists by purchasing their artworks, but more to the point, not make this feel such a high-brow activity to pursue.

It should be as normal and accessible as buying a good coffee or going out for a nice dinner.

Sara Roberts has lived in Mexico, France, Sweden, Poland and Australia and takes inspiration from these varied landscapes. She creates works which are both nostalgic and utopian with a touch of the supernatural.

Artwork by Sara Roberts

What has been your favourite project to date?

That’s a tricky one! Each pop-up gets better and better. However, when collaborating with a few different organisations, that’s when it gets fun. I guess each event works for different reasons. City vs Nature was a huge success considering I was working with such a small space. I really enjoyed being a tour guide for Sydney Contemporary Art Fair last year and with all the shows I do, I meet the most amazing people along the way. I was also filmed as an art critic for SBS documentary for the guys at Semi-permanent when Mr Brainwash came to Sydney in July. That was a mad experience! The Sydney Fringe show is about to open, and I’m looking forward to how that unfolds.

What’s the next exciting item on the Art Pharmacy agenda?

This year Sydney Fringe Festival asked Art Pharmacy to be the visual arms section of the festival. For 10 days ‘The Lab’ by Art Pharmacy will bring together an eclectic mix of handpicked artists for a mini-residency and testing zone. Pushing boundaries, The Lab is a cultural hub for novice art collectors with 16 artists, 60+ handmade pieces hung under one roof for the duration of the festival.

In partnership with the Sydney Fringe Festival, The Lab will be open to public audiences from the 4th – 14th September 2014, at the exciting venue of 20 Oxford Square, Oxford Street, Darlinghurst NSW. Artist Line up: Catherine Nolan, Haejin Yoo, Shannon Johnson, Mr Will Coles , Bea Bellingham, James Dale, Maz Dixon (Sulman finalist 2014), Stuart Smith, Taylor Conacher, Victoria Garcia, Sara Roberts, Cat Lee, Claire Nakazawa, Bec Kilpatrick & Brendan Fitzgerald. Lastly sculpture artist Elyssa Sykes-Smith (exhibited twice in Sculpture by the Sea) will have her own sunlit room on the mezzanine level!

We have had some great colloborations this time: Interior & exteriors experts Porters Paint, Furniture Designers Design by Them, Mitchell Road Antiques, Floral Designer Wild Blossom Flowers & Project Okyo are collaborating with Art Pharmacy this year to bring the show to life. We are also working with the guys from Studio Neon who will have the ‘NEON Loft’ will be nourishing your tastebuds, with Young Henry’s craft brews, organic cocktails by Trolley’d.

Opening Party – Our opening parties are getting bigger every pop up. This year Absoult Vodka are sponsoring us, music by  Molly Contogeorge, Huckleberry Hastings & Paris Pompor / Groovescooter on September 4th RSVP here. We also have two live artists on the evening – Bea Bellingham & will open the show with a live painting session thanks to Chroma paints.

Street artist Mulga the Artist will turn our front window into a work of art.

Lastly… ‘Stories from the Lab’ – Have a sticky chai with us & hear from our artists RSVP here

‘Interiors Under the Microscope’ Panel Talk, Enjoy a wine with us RSVP here. This will feature guest speakers:

Jackie Brown, Head Stylist at Real Living Magazine,

Nick Karlovasitis, Designer from DesignByThem

Emilya Colliver, Art Hunter from Art Pharmacy.

We have a dedicated page on our site

Hashtag: #TheLabSyd

Shannon Johnson is a Sydney based mixed-media artist whose work is inspired by the visual nature of streets such as graffiti, peeling paint and advertisements.

Art by Shannon Johnson

If you were to be named Patron Saint of X in 3 centuries time, what would you like X to be?

Creative collaboration. I really think working with people who understand one another’s passion can move things forward in leaps and bounds compared to doing it on your own. Being a creative on a shoestring budget you have to think outside the box all the time, and so getting others to contribute and help works well.

I only work with people I like. It’s my mantra.

Anything else you would like to add?

I completely re-designed our website last month, so take a look at that, and hey, why don’t you buy something while you’re there!


Editor’s note: we listed all the sponsors as it’s the least you can do for the businesses that also get behind art!


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