In the middle of Williams Road in Prahran, on the corner of Lumley Court, is an exquisite contemporary asymmetrical structure. It unique presence is certainly different to classic Victorian houses which line the road, however, it also brings a special gift to the neighbourhood.
Each month, Charles and Leah Justin, the designers and namesakes of the Justin Arts House Museum (JAHM) open their doors to their private museum and collection of contemporary art, to the public. You need to book early for JAHM's tours, exhibitions, talks and soirees to avoid missing out on this exquisite and intimate experience of art and architecture.
Charles Justin faciliating an arts discussion in the JAHM gallery
On entering JAHM, I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, lucky to have a golden ticket to discover a new world, I would not otherwise have access too. I've entered someone's private home, where they live and play, to view and experience their life and private collection of art, collected over many years of travel around the world. This is a most intimate experience and one you do not get in the mainstream large galleries.
It's a very generous venture, and Charles and Leah Justin are the perfect hosts. Not only do they provide warm hospitality and a fantastic afternoon tea, they provide their passion and expertise for art, curatorship and facilitate an open dialogue with the audience about art from the viewer's perspective.
You do not have to be an art expert either. JAHM is a place of learning and discussion, for the curious and open-minded – no view is off the table, as art is as subjective as the eye of the beholder.
Image from 'Lives Distilled' by Adrian Boddy
Our first port of call is in the downstairs theatre, where Charles and Leah introduce us to the museum, their interest in collecting 'Slow Art', curatorship and architecture. They provide a collection of curatorial essays and artists statement using 'What's App' which makes this information very accessible via a smartphone or tablet.
JAHM has two major exhibitions per year, one from Charles and Leah's collection and one from a selected artist. The current exhibition is 'Body of Work' by Adrian Boddy, with 300 images selected from 120, 000 digital photos taken over several years
This is one of the provocations we are offered to consider as we climb 39 Steps to the apartment, designed by light installation artist Ilanel . Each step contains LED strip lighting in four colours, with sixty lights in each stair controlled by a computer lighting program. Interactive sensors are on each flight which creates a personal lighting sequence for each person climbing the stairs. Technology, art and architecture combine to produce a dancefloor experience, which takes your mind away from the physical climb.
Of course, you can always take the funky elevator, which is an experience on its own. JAHM not only is exquisitely designed, it also has all the modern conveniences of the latest technology and is fully accessible.
Adrian Boddy's images are curated digitally on to television screens, framing the works in the gallery. The images are curated into ten themes, from nature to Japan, from the Outback to the Thredbo snowfields, to the glaciers of Antarctica. The gallery walls are painted in the Kodachrome colours (i.e. yellow, black and white), to help draw the eye to the works and as a motif of a photographer's exhibition.
There is a little library containing the artist's collection of reference materials, photos and memorabilia. Upstairs in the apartment, we are invited to explore every room where Charles and Leah live. My words cannot describe the experience, so you will have to go and visit JAHM. The use of light and open space is particularly freeing, especially if you are used to living in a confined space. The apartment displays Charles and Leah's private collection and private memorabilia of the exhibiting artist. Adrian Boddy's collection of cameras and personal photos are on display. The apartment's décor is changed every six months with a new theme, connected to the exhibition at the time.
JAHM private collection
I fell in love with JAHM, and you will too when you see the array of upcoming events and talks. Head to www.jahm.com.au and book in to avoid missing out on this opportunity to visit a neighbourhood museum.