farewell espionage

espionage gallery - end of an era - 4/5/14 (photo taken from the epsionage instagram feed)
Back in November last year I posted about Espionage Gallery on the eve of the launch of the Save Espionage crowdfunding campaign. But sadly Espionage is no more... at least not in a physical location.

But gallery owner, Joshua Smith, says it better than I do... this is a truncated version, the full post can be found on the Espionage Facebook page.
It is with much regret that I must inform you that after four years of showcasing 75+ exhibitions and 400+ artists from 30+ countries Espionage Gallery has been forced to close down.

This is the result of a streak of poor art sales and a lack of funding. We'd like to thank everyone who donated to the Save Espionage Pozible fundraiser run last year, it was successful and helped keep the gallery open for 5 more months and paid for rent and upgrades to the gallery which we had hoped to run until the end of the year. However due to issues relating to low sales and lease agreement Espionage has had to come to a sudden closure.

We had every intention to try and keep the gallery open all year and had already had a full lineup of exhibitions. Unfortunately the money raised would only sustain us for so long with the hope that stronger sales both with the gallery and the shop would help us see through to the end of the year.

Although Espionage Gallery has closed in Rundle Mall, it will still live on with Pop Up exhibitions from time to time so please keep in touch and keep your eyes posted to the website and Espionage Facebook Pages.
And today Josh posted the photo at the top of this post, of the gallery space completely empty and repainted and looking so completely unlike the Espionage I know and love. But I take heart in the fact that there are layers and layers and layers and layers of paint on those walls that tell the story of the space, as as Ma said when I sent her a copy of the photo, "the memories will linger and may the creativity that it nourished add to the atmosphere of the now empty space".

Personally I'd love to be a fly on the wall when the new tenants try and work out what all the marks on the floor are from. I also wonder how long it will be before all the stickers disappear from the lobby and the elevator shaft.

I said a lot of the things I wanted to say about Espionage in that previous post, other than to expand on what I said to Josh when I went in to see him and he told me about the gallery closing... everything that Espionage is or was came from Josh... and if push came to shove, an art show in a cardboard box would still work, provided it all all him.

Finding the artists, knowing who would work for what shows, knowing the art that would appeal to his customers and showing his passion for the art and the artists to everyone who walked through that door... that was all 100% Josh.

And putting art collectors and artists in each other's paths. I wouldn't currently have a personally designed, one-of-a-kind Cameron Brideoake artwork tattooed on my arm (which needs a post all of it's own now that it's all healed up) if it hadn't been for Josh and Espionage.

I also wouldn't have the James Dean designed toy soldier drummer piece that I commissioned, not to mention an apartment full of gorgeous artworks.

In short, I wouldn't have become an art collector, had it not been for Espionage.

So to celebrate the gallery that was, I dug through my Instagram for photos from 24 of the over 30 exhibitions I attended (sadly I never did get a photo of the lovely Charlie though)... most of them on the opening nights...

espionage gallery - all stars show - 25/11/11espionage gallery - limited edition print show - 5/4/12
All Stars show (25/11/11) and Limited Edition print show (5/4/12)

The image on the left is the reason I ever stepped into Espionage in the first place... Gary Seaman's work in the All Stars show. I popped in during my lunchbreak at work and spent the next hour talking to Josh. The shot on the right is the first opening night I went to... and the proceeded to buy four pieces.

espionage gallery - mythmaker: cameron brideoake show - 12/4/12espionage gallery - winter show - 21/6/12
Mythmaker: Cameron Brideoake show (12/4/12) and Winter show (21/6/12)

Enter Cameron Brideoake to the story... I actually met him a couple of days before when I called into the gallery to pick something up and he was setting up for this show. Josh wouldn't let me see any of the artworks though... oh how times changed!

espionage gallery - river: gary seaman show - 28/6/12espionage gallery - ingrained: works on wood show - 19/7/12
River: Gary Seaman show (28/6/12) and Ingrained works on wood show (19/7/12)

River was the first Gary solo show I went to at Espionage... and I also got invited to show up a little early, before the great unwashed were let through the doors. Plus I bought things right off the wall that weren't even meant to be for sale. Too bad I didn't remember to clear the fluff off my iPhone camera lens before taking photos at the exhibition.

espionage gallery - animalia: emmaline zanelli show - 3/8/12espionage gallery - oldschool: retro show - 6/9/12
Animalia: Emmaline Zanelli show (3/8/12) and Oldschool retro show (6/9/12)

I didn't make it to the Animalia show, but that was the first time I really remember Josh making large scale changes to the gallery for an exhibition... there was some of it for the River show, but this one was a thing to see. And the piece on the left side of the photo for the Oldschool show had a matching twin on the other side of the Monk piece... it now hangs on my bedroom wall.

espionage gallery - about face: portrait show - 20/9/12espionage gallery - unboxed: first vinyl toy show - 18/10/12
About Face portrait show (20/9/12) and Unboxed: first vinyl toy show (18/10/12)

Pretty sure the About Face show was the first time I caught Josh in one of my photos... that was before Gen's influence where he got all suited up for shows. And I wanted that wooden tape measure vinyl toy SO badly... but it was so damn expensive... that was also the show where I bought the Luka Va piece I mentioned yesterday.

espionage gallery - eat my shorts: donovan christie show - 1/11/12espionage gallery - second all stars show - 13/12/12
Eat My Shorts: Donovan Christie show (1/11/12) and second All Stars show (13/12/12)

Donovan didn't have the greatest number of pieces in his Simpsons themed show, but turning the wall of the gallery into the Simpson living room definitely made an impact. And I don't know why but the shot from the second All Stars show is one of my favourites.

espionage gallery - second anniversary show - 24/1/13espionage gallery - rem’s inaugural super art fun happy adventure 3000 show - 7/2/13
Second Anniversary show (24/1/13) and Rem’s inaugural super art fun happy adventure 3000 show (7/2/13)

I was also completely in love with all the Star Wars themed stickers on this suitcase from Rem's show... and insanely, they're all one of a kind stickers... he could have made a small fortune from just selling sticker sets, but no, the ones on this case are the only ones there were.

espionage gallery - we’re all mad here: alice in wonderland show - 14/3/13espionage gallery - shadow mountain: scatterbrain and gary seaman show - 4/4/13
We're All Mad Here: Wonderland show (14/3/13) and Shadow Mountain: Scatterbrain and Gary Seaman show (4/4/13)

Alice in Wonderland meets my birthday, Espionage style! This is always when I thought that the gallery looked at it's absolute best... when the walls were CRAMMED with artwork (and right before all the crowds descended)... the Mad Hatter teacups also looked great for this one. And there's nothing like prepping a show right up until the very last second. I was there when Gary was still finishing and hanging works for his solo show, and again when he teamed up with Scatterbrain, they were still painting this mural on the wall as people lined up outside.

espionage gallery - organic: tee shirt show - 30/5/13espionage gallery - floating worlds: cameron brideoake show - 25/7/13
Organic t-shirt show (30/5/13) and Floating Worlds: Cameron Brideoake show (25/7/13)

Cameron's t-shirt design, and Cameron's second Espionage exhibition... I love wearing the shirt, and the print hangs right by the front door to my apartment, so I see it every day. And I bought the titular piece from the Floating Worlds exhibition without even seeing it in person, Josh showed me the piece that became the poster on his computer, I bought it there and then.

espionage gallery - dreamwalker: caitlin millard show - 15/8/13espionage gallery - introspective: david soukup show - 3/10/13
Dreamwalker: Caitlin Millard show (15/8/13) and Introspective: David Soukup show (3/10/13)

I can't remember when the black wall appeared... that back wall has been a range of colours as needed for particular shows, but the black definitely made a statement. I also got a chance to meet an international artist in David Soukup (plus he was one of the set dressers for the movie Man of Steel).

espionage gallery - save espionage show - 14/11/13espionage gallery - arcade all stars: retro gaming show - 12/12/13
Save Espionage show (14/11/13) and Arcade All Stars retro gaming show (12/12/13)

The Save Espionage and Arcade All Stars shows were two of the biggest shows since Gary's first solo exhibition... and it was good to see the walls positively groaning with works in both cases. I was also really pleased that Espionage reached it's crowdfunding goal.

espionage gallery - around the world in 80 toys: third vinyl toy show - 13/2/14espionage gallery - gotham: batman show - 3/4/14
Around the World in 80 Toys vinyl toy show (13/2/14) and Gotham: Batman show (3/4/14)

Which brings us to 2014 and the end of the line... but not before the best vinyl toy show of the bunch (and this adorable kangaroo girl who I think everyone at the opening night wanted to buy) and the first of the planned pop culture shows, Gotham... what Josh and his helpers did with $60 of brown paper, black plastic bags and some spray paint he had laying around is nothing short of amazing.

It is a shame that the gallery had to close right before the LEGO themed exhibition, especially because I worked with Josh on coming up with a list of people who work with LEGO that would have been great to have involved.

So thank you yet again to Josh for keeping Espionage running for as long as he did, for all his hard work and for always being pleased to see me, even when I didn't buy things. I can't wait to see what he does next... and when the Espionage name might pop up again, if only for a few days here or there.

It is going to feel weird not climbing into that rattly old elevator any more though.

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