Current Issue #488

Collect local: Helpmann’s VIP Vernissage a dream for budding art collectors

Collect local: Helpmann’s VIP Vernissage a dream for budding art collectors

In its 23rd year, the Helpmann Academy Graduate exhibition will present 99 works from emerging South Australian artists, and in that, a special opportunity for budding and professional art collectors to make those works their own.

With a wide array of work on show, including painting, ceramics, photography, video, sculpture and printmaking, the Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition represents a special moment in time, when emerging artists are at the jumping off point of their creative careers.

While there is more than $52,000 worth of awards on offer for the exhibiting artists, one of the most alluring opportunities of the exhibition is to have their work snapped up by collectors. Indeed, it’s a lucrative chance for those collectors to get in on the ground floor of a promising artist’s career.

2017 Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition (photo: Jasmine van der Byl)

Showing at the Torrens Parade Ground’s Drill Hall from February 16 until March 11, there’s plenty of time for punters to nab a piece of work, but the very best chance at picking up something special comes with the VIP Vernissage, a special preview of the annual exhibition on February 14.

It’s at this preview night where collectors and canny enthusiasts snap up some of the most promising pieces. Guests enjoy Helpmann’s hospitality throughout this private viewing, complete with Moët, fine wines and canapés, as well as have the opportunity to speak with the participating artists about their work and practice.

Artist Sera Waters, whose work has been selected for exhibition three times, says that it is a great opportunity and privilege to have her work on the exhibition’s walls.

“It is always an honour to have my work recognised in this way, taken seriously, and positioned amongst other artists who are as committed to pursuing their art careers,” says Waters. The main benefit of these exhibitions is exposure — having my work shown to such a widespread audience, from collectors, other art practitioners, teachers, families, and more.”

Sera Waters’ Basking is a part of the 2018 exhibition (photo: Grant Hancock)

Many more local artists have gone on to success after featuring in the exhibition, including Rebecca Hastings, Zoe Kirkwood, Tom Borgas and Mirjana Dobson. Waters says that buying the art exhibited makes sure that those artists can continue to practice and grow in their creative pursuit.

“When you invest in local art not only do you get to live with amazing works of art,” she says. “Buying local also sustains the artist, keeps their careers going, in being able to pay for materials, studio rent etc, allowing them to keep on experimenting, exhibiting, and extending their practice. This is essential for a flourishing creative community.”

This year will see a bevy of diverse local artists from Adelaide College of the Arts and University of South Australia, including Brianna Speight, Joseph Haxan, Casey Deed and Molly Willson.

Joseph Haxan’s City to Void will also exhibit at Drill Hall this year 

Chester Osborn of d’Arenberg Wines is looking forward to this year’s Vernissage to make sure he can add one such piece to his collection before others. Having attended for many years, Osborn has purchased many works exhibited, with some now sitting in the d’Arenberg Cube, including Jane Skeer’s Quiet Square and Kelsey Reynolds’ Spaces of Absence.

“It’s definitely a great opportunity to pick up pieces before they’re snapped up by someone else,” says Osborn. “I usually walk around pretty quickly to buy the things I want to buy before anyone else does.”

David Raffen is also a prolific collector of South Australian art and sponsors the exhibition’s acquisitive Raffen Award. He believes that opportunity for artists to gain exposure and enthusiasts or collectors to buy local art is a win-win for the community.

“I remember one year an artist said to me after winning with tears in his eyes, ‘Now my father will finally believe in me’,” says Raffen of the acquisitive award. “It is this formal recognition that can springboard an artist’s passion into a true career. That’s why I do it. By making it an acquisitive award I can capture forever, a piece of our art history, which will hopefully be enjoyed by many for years to come.”

David Raffen with 2017 Raffen Award winner Sonya Moyle and Helpmann Academy CEO Jane MacFarlane

When it comes to advice for potential buyers, Raffen has some sage words for those looking to purchase for pleasure and profit. Getting in quick is key, it seems, and there is scant better opportunity for that than to attend the VIP Vernissage.

“If you are purchasing for pleasure, buy what you just love, what you can’t stop looking at, buy what brings back wonderful memories, buy what intrigues you and makes you ask questions,” he says.“If you are purchasing for investment then that is a different story as it must be commercial with a true demonstration of skill, technique or some other element, which raises it above all other pieces.

“If you can achieve both, then write the cheque straight away before someone else does.”

VIP Vernissage
Wednesday, February 14, from 6:30pm
Tickets available via

Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibition
Friday, February 16 until Sunday, March 11
Drill Hall, Torrens Parade Ground

This article is brought to you by Helpmann Academy

Header image: Brianna Speight, Attagirl

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