For years now, the distant memory of a vibrant commercial gallery culture in Perth seemed irretrievably lost. Vital to the visual arts ecosystem, the commercial gallery model provides a crucial link between artist and collector and potential collector, the linchpin being a director engaged and alert to every opportunity. Several have opened recently, with Kamilė Gallery the latest, opening last September. It’s the third gallery to open in Cathedral Square in Perth, with Art Collective WA, established in 2013, the first, followed by Moore Contemporary in 2017.
Lithuanian-born director Kamilė Burinskaitė studied law at Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania and was working for an online media company in 2011 when she first came to Australia for a kite surfing holiday, meeting her partner, and father of her two children, now three and five. Burinskaitė says she was passionate about art from an early age, and as she became older would travel the world specifically to see exhibitions or international art fairs such as Art Basel Miami and Frieze in Los Angeles. She became a keen collector of contemporary art along the way, and in recent times, sold art online through artsy.net. “I always thought there wasn’t enough modern art in Perth,” she says.” I would never see enough of what I saw in other places.” By early last year she was seriously considering opening a gallery herself, and actively looking at spaces, but the onset of the pandemic sealed her decision. “With Covid I couldn’t travel anymore, so I thought ‘why not try it.'”
Kamilė Gallery is located at the ground floor of a relatively new building on the former Playhouse Theatre site. Commissioned by the Anglican Diocese of Perth, Church House is a mix of offices and meeting rooms over four floors, designed by multi-award-winning architect Kerry Hill, who also designed the City of Perth Library which backs on to Cathedral Square. It was the last building designed by Hill, who died in 2018 after a long and illustrious career. It was also the site of the six cell Old Perth Gaol, from 1830 until it was demolished in 1855 and another later built on the corner of Beaufort and Francis Streets, and is a significant location for First Nations people. “I’d like to create some exhibitions with Noongar artists to pay tribute to this significance,” she says.
Kamilė Gallery’s first exhibition made quite an impact. Aggregate by Nigel Laxton consisted of works created with the intention of being touched. Burinskaitė says when she was at different art shows she would think, ‘what would you do if you were blind?’ “So I wanted a gallery which would accessible to everyone, where people could touch the artworks and feel the textures.” Indeed, Burinskaitė’s business card includes the familiar braille bumps containing her contact details. “Even having the cards produced was a journey,” she says. As a result of the exhibition, both artist and the gallery were acknowledged by Disability Australia with an award presented in recognition of providing equal opportunities and access for those with a disability.
Artists participating in future exhibitions at Kamilė Gallery can choose if they would like their work touched. “I found the people who did touch the work were so gentle, so the artworks are absolutely fine,” she says. “We ensure their hands are clean both before and afterwards. Of course we’d like to have braille didactics in the future with more funding.”
It’s all part of Burinskaitė’s plan to be edgy and contemporary. “Not just in Perth, but Australia,” she says. “I’m a big supporter of the arts, and buy a lot of art. It’s the hardest thing having exhibitions here, because I’d like to buy everything. I literally wake up and fall asleep thinking about art – it’s a passion.”
Kamilė Gallery is located at Cathedral Square, 3 Pier St, Perth. Visit https://www.facebook.com/kamilegallery/ for more information.
Kamilė Burinskaitė, left, and the interior of Kamilė Gallery, above.