In 2001 the Danks Street arts complex opened in the then unfashionable Sydney suburb of Waterloo. Soon the neighbourhood was bristling with foodies, designer furniture outlets and high-rise apartments. In December 2016 the much-loved arts complex closed its doors to make way for yet another block of flats. Brenda May Gallery was one of the original Danks Street tenants. Her eponymous gallery is gone, but, after more than 30 years, Brenda May is still in business.
May started in 1985 with Access Contemporary Art Gallery. Now she is launching her third gallery, May Space. She currently represents Robert Boynes, Sybil Curtis, Todd Fuller, Ashleigh Garwood, James Guppy, Waratah Lahy, Melinda Le Guay, Al Munro, Carol Murphy, Mylyn Nguyen, Catherine O'Donnell, Leslie Oliver, Peter Tilley and Nicole Welch. Each artist will present one major work in the gallery's inaugural show, Fourteen.
During her three decades as a gallerist, May has found that increasing numbers of people are eschewing a trip to the gallery in favour of viewing online. She’s keen to reverse this trend and is hoping to entice regular visitors into her new space with an easily accessible stockroom, seating, conversation and coffee, as well as a dynamic program of exhibitions including videos in her dedicated Black Box space, group shows by fresh talent and solo shows by her stable of artists.
And while many things have changed over the years, some have stayed the same. May remains dedicated to the potential of art. "I don't necessarily believe that the artists we represent are going to change the course of history in Australia, but I do believe there is a contribution to be made. Otherwise I wouldn't do it," she says, adding, "I still look forward to work every day."