Juliet Rosser believes in supporting Australian artists. So much so that she set up a business to promote their work and better engage the public with the arts sector.
Platform72 was launched in February 2012 and it is based on a unique concept. It doubles as a gallery space to display art works as well as a retail store in which customers can buy homewares, jewellery and other items.
“It’s a space that has a front section which is creative retail,” Rosser tells Dynamic Business. “Out the back there’s the more traditional gallery where there’s a show by an artist.”
The concept provides artists with a gateway to a wider audience and regular public exhibitions are held once or twice a month. Rosser handpicks the artists to exhibit, who range from up-and-comers to established names like Archibald winning artist, Craig Ruddy.
“We don’t take every person who thinks they’re an artist on board. It’s about the quality of the work and the commitment to their practice. It’s about integrity,” Rosser says.
The aim of the business is to help “break down the barriers” between Australian artists and the public. One of the ways Rosser seeks to achieve this goal is by offering a distinctive “in home consultation service”.
This is a service in which a team comes to the customer’s home and tries out a range of artworks in different rooms and walls. The artworks are selected from a wishlist the customer has put together.
“People normally come in and say that they are interested in some artworks and they point out a few different artists whose work is speaking to them. We will then direct them to our website where we have a full catalogue of what we have and they create a wishlist,” Rosser says. “Then we’ll take over those artworks to the home and we advise them on what we think is most suitable for their space.”
“It’s a very unique concept. We believe that art works are a living entity created by a human being. You’ll be engaging with something everyday, it will change as the light changes in your space.”
Her own background in the arts sector, and a Masters of Studio Art from Sydney University has aided Rosser’s business, alongside her team who hold similar qualifications and backgrounds.
“I was totally into the arts field and trying to figure out how I could do something that would be helpful for artists. I had quite a few connections already through art school. I’d been visiting lots of art schools and travelling around Australia quite a bit.”
With two full time employees and three casual staff, Rosser says hiring staff is always the biggest expense and counts herself lucky to have found passionate people.
The first space Rosser opened was on Oxford Street in Sydney’s trendy inner-city suburb of Darlinghurst in 2012. But she has since expanded, opening up a second gallery in Central Park, Broadway in October 2013, and later this month she will open a third space in St Leonards on Sydney’s lower North Shore which will be opened by appointment only.
Before opting to work for herself, Rosser worked in sales and marketing for a range of different businesses including The Sebel Sydney, Blueprint Digital and the Fort Denison Restaurant. In 2011, she came across a retail model in which a space was rented out to artists without a commission being taken on any sales.
This model was flawed she says, but proved to be the starting point for making Platform72 a reality. Rosser takes a commission on the pieces she sells in her galleries. The price range for items in her stores varies from between $5 or $15,000.
Overall, Rosser says she is very happy working for herself; 80 per cent of the time she loves running her own business and wouldn’t do anything else.
“I have a strong drive to work for myself. I don’t want to be dictated to by anyone and I want to create something of my own. That’s the main driving force,” she says.
However, there are some challenges. She says the main one stems from her business being truly different.
“It takes time for people to get it and want to be involved in some level,” she says. “Our main hurdle is that we’ve created a space and a business that is unique and new. And people need to be educated around what we’re doing, People walk into the space and think it’s a shop and they look around and realise they haven’t seen anything in there before.”
At the end of the day, Rosser sees her business mission as helping to connect and educate people about the joys of contemporary Australian artwork.
“Artists are driven by a pure need to create and express themselves and they do that far more than they exhibit their work. We are able to show that work that sometimes doesn’t get seen.”