I am a freelance writer for a range of lifestyle magazines, Executive Producer of the John Laws Show on Radio 2SM Sydney and a busy personal trainer.
Published May 17th 2011
White Rabbit Art Gallery
Hidden in one of the little back streets of Chippendale on the fringe of the Sydney CBD is an art gallery you've probably never heard of. It's called The White Rabbit Gallery and it houses an astonishing and culturally important collection of contemporary Chinese art. White Rabbit Gallery hangs works by activists, thieves, peasants and immigrants.
Four floors of extraordinary Chinese contemporary art
The White Rabbit Gallery is a glorious example of renewal in the gentrified suburb of Chippendale. It's housed in a converted former knitting factory in Balfour Street, with four floors of exhibition space, a theatrette, a library and a tea-house.
The foyer has impact before you even step inside the gallery proper, with the largest items soaring upwards in the light open plan space. Each floor is a surprise. There's a lot being said by these works, and it's hard to miss the point.
A tour of the four floors of this gallery is a revelation, an insight into modern China. And it's not what you'd expect – the works are thought provoking, cheeky, humorous and powerful.
The White Rabbit Collection is the personal obsession of collectors, billionaire businessman Kerr Neilsen and his wife Judith. What began as a personal interest has become one of the world's largest and most significant collections of contemporary Chinese art.
The origins of the Collection go back to the late 1990s, when Judith Neilson engaged Wang Zhiyuan, a Chinese artist then living in Sydney, as her art tutor. The relationship between the outspoken activist and one of Australia's richest women has created one of the country's most dynamic collections.
The "Opening Up" of Communist China was just beginning, and Wang introduced Judith to the astonishing explosion of creativity taking place. Mrs. Neilson began buying works, but soon ran out of space to hang them.
Mrs. Neilson continues to make regular trips to China with Wang Zhiyuan, scouring the countryside for emerging talent.
We never ever buy at auction," she says. "The whole of the Chinese art market is controlled by a few people. So I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful if I could have a space where I could show the work of the lesser-known artists?"
The West has been slow to embrace the evolving, Chinese scene but the popularity of White Rabbit is changing that. The politically correct Chinese artworks hung by more established galleries are not what White Rabbit is about. You'll see the controversial and the confronting here, and be enriched and surprised by it.
Mrs. Neilson was one of the first international buyers to take a keen interest in the radical art movement. She is a true philanthropist, dedicated to sharing her love of art with the general public. Admittance, tours and even the library are free.
Only a fraction of the Collection is on show at any time. The entire contents of the gallery are re-hung twice a year. Make it a regular stop on your cultural explorations of the city. It's a hidden treasure.