Brummels Gallery

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Brummels Gallery
Address95 Toorak Road
LocationSouth Yarra, Victoria
Opened8 October 1956 (1956-10-08)

Brummels Gallery in South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia, was a commercial gallery established by David Yencken in the mid-1950s to exhibit contemporary Modernist Australian painting, sculpture and prints, but after a period of dormancy became best known in the 1970s, under the directorship of Rennie Ellis, as the first in Australia to specialise in photography at a time when the medium was being revived as an art form.

Foundation of a gallery for Australian art[edit]

David Yencken (born 1931) Chairman and Joint Managing Director Merchant Builders Pty Ltd., and later to be University of Melbourne Elisabeth Murdoch Chair of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning 1988–1997, established Brummels on the top floor of 95 Toorak Rd., South Yarra, above Brummels[1] espresso bar whose proprietor Pat Collins, joined in the venture. It was the second gallery in Melbourne to exclusively show Australian art.[2][3] (the first was Australian Galleries in Collingwood, which opened 5 months earlier).[4]

The gallery was opened on Monday 8 October 1956 at 5.50pm by Sir Daryl Lindsay[5] then about to retire as Director of the NGV and who was easing its resistance to Modernism. The show presented artists from both Sydney and Melbourne[6] and included Jewish migrants Sali Herman, whose Two Soldiers Sleeping on a Train was bought by a Melbourne family, and Judy Cassab (a future Archibald Prize winner); alongside George Bell; Elaine Haxton, who showed works made on a visit to Communist China with an Australian cultural delegation; with a landscape by Charles Bush, and a wood carving by sculptor Clifford Last.[7][8]

Brummels Gallery continued to promote significant Australian artists, many of whom had sought refuge in the country after World War II, including a one-man exhibition by Sali Herman;[9] abstract paintings, drawings and sketches for ceramic murals by John Howley, Donald Laycock and Lawrence Daws with pottery by Tom Sanders (10–15 December 1956) opened by architect Peter McIntyre;[10] Anita Aarons, Ola Cohn, Vincas Jolantas, Inge King, Julius Kane, Clifford Last, Clement Meadmore, Andor Meszaros, Lenton Parr, Günther Stein, Tina Wentcher, Teisutis Zikaras in Twelve Melbourne Sculptors (1957), opened by Neil Clerehan (who himself held a sculpture show there that year,[11] as did Vincas Jolantas); watercolours by Guy Grey-Smith (also 1957),[12] drawings by Teisutis Zikaras (also 1957);[13] silversmithing and jewellery by Matcham Skipper (1958); drawings by Jon Molvig (mid-1958),[14] sketches, costumes, and designs for the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust by Barry Kay, April 20 – May 2, 1959;[15] Antonio Rodrigues wooden sculpture (1959).[16] Exhibitions were held by Desiderius Orban, John Brack, Clifton Pugh,[17] Dorothy Baker and others.

This first manifestation of Brummels closed briefly after a fire,[18] and after Pat Collins moved to Hobart to open Tasmania's first liquor-licensed restaurant, the gallery reopened in October 1962 with a posthumous show of graphic works by Latvian Janis Riekstins.[19] Thereafter, occasional exhibitions in the space were held, and as late as 1968 Ojars Biseniek's abstractions shown there were reviewed (dismissively) by Patrick McCaughey in The Age' March 13, 1968 [20]

Australia's first gallery of photography[edit]

In the early 1970s, advertising photographer and photojournalist Rennie Ellis with deputy director Robert Ashton reopened the space as Brummels Gallery of Photography. Assisted with two Arts Council grants, it was non-profit, and the first privately run art gallery in the country to be devoted specifically to photography. It was particularly a showcase and outlet for Australian photographers[21][22] though it also attracted shows from international photographic artists Charles Gatewood (‘Sidetripping’ 1975) and Sarah Moon.

On 14 December 1972, the gallery opened with Two Views of Erotica: Henry Talbot/Carol Jerrems (14 December 1972 – 21 January 1973), launched by photographer and filmmaker, Paul Cox, who was soon to open The Photographers Gallery around the corner in Punt Rd South Yarra. This period brought a reawakening[23][24] to the photographic medium as an art form not seen since the Pictorialist era, and saw the National Gallery of Victoria open the first photography department in a government-run institution, under the curatorship of Jennie Boddington. From 1977, the gallery was sponsored by the camera manufacturer Pentax and was renamed Pentax Brummels Gallery of Photography. In 2015 the terrace shopfront still bore this signage in faded letters across its upper facade.[25]

The gallery closed in January 1980, the month before the premature death of its inaugural exhibitor, Carol Jerrems.[26] Having run for eight years, the gallery had advanced the standing of photography as art and the careers of many Australian photographers including Warren Breninger, Godwin Bradbeer,[27] Ponch Hawkes, David Moore, Gerard Groeneveld, Rod McNicol, Peter Leiss, Steven Lojewski, Wesley Stacey, Robert Ashton, Ian Dodd, Sue Ford, George Gittoes,[28] Ashe Venn,[29] John Williams, Jon Rhodes, Geoff Strong, Jean-Marc Le Pechoux and Henry Talbot.

Selected exhibitions 1972–1980[edit]

Around seventy photography exhibitions were shown during this period, including:[30]

  • 14 December 1972 – 21 January 1973 Two Views of Erotica: Henry Talbot and Carol Jerrems
  • 1972 Group Exhibition Friends (incl. Wesley Stacey)
  • 1973 Group Exhibition Children (incl. Rennie Ellis)
  • 1973 Robert Ashton 1973 Faces and Places
  • 1973 Wesley Stacey Towards a Self-Portrait
  • 1973/4 Shane McCarthy solo
  • 1974 Peter Leiss Urban Labyrinth
  • 1974 December; joint show by Carol Jerrems showing 32 images from her A Book About Australian Women,[31] and Robert Ashton exhibiting images from his book Into the Hollow Mountains: A Portrait of Fitzroy
  • 1974 Sue Ford Time Series (exhibited the same year at NGV)
  • 1975 Warren Breninger, Godwin Bradbeer Mortal Trash is Immortal Diamond
  • September 1975 John Williams[32]
  • 1975 George Gittoes Rainbow Way (also shown Coventry Gallery, Sydney)
  • 1976 Robert Ashton Between Light and Dark
  • 1976 Ponch Hawkes: Our Mums and Us
  • 1976 Jon Lewis solo
  • June 1976 Jutta Hosel and Irvin Rockman joint show
  • 1976 David Moore Retrospective 1940–76
  • 1976 Warren Breninger, Godwin Bradbeer, J. Bradbeer Eyelid to Eyelid
  • February 1977 Phillip Adams opens Sarah Moon exhibition,[33] announces the renaming of the gallery to the Pentax Brummels Photography Gallery
  • 1977 Jane England solo
  • 1978 Group Exhibition Down Under, Down Under Show (incl. Geoff Parr, Marion Hardman)
  • 3 August to 3 September 1978: Rod McNicol and Carol Jerrems joint exhibition[34]
  • 1978 Charles Gatewood Sidetripping
  • 1978 Peter Leiss The Enneagram Series
  • 1979 Bruce Haswell Realisme[35]


In 2012, the importance of Brummels to photography in Australia was recognised in the Monash Gallery of Art retrospective exhibition Brummels: Australia's First Gallery of Photography 22 October 2011 – 22 January 2012, which was attended by 15,639 visitors.[36][37][38] Research done by the Australian Centre for Photography shows that Brummels was established fifth in order of photographic centres worldwide.[39]


  1. ^ 'Brummels' is always spelt thus, without apostrophe.
  2. ^ Max, Germaine (1979). Artists and galleries of Australia and New Zealand. Sydney Auckland Lansdowne Editions. ISBN 978-0-86832-019-9.
  3. ^ " attention was focused on a small art gallery called Brummels Gallery in Toorak Road, South Yarra. I opened the gallery in 1956 in partnership with Pat Collins, the owner of the coffee shop below the gallery. The gallery was devoted to Australian painting and at the time of its opening was one of only two with this focus in Melbourne. Although I didn’t run the gallery for long, it was for me a significant experience…" David Yencken ‘A Tale of Two Motels: the times, the architecture and the architects’ Yencken, D. G. D. (David George Druce) (2014), A tale of two motels: the times, the architecture and the architects, [Albert Park, Victoria] Future Leaders, ISBN 978-0-9874807-3-6
  4. ^ "Inaugural Exhibitions at Two Galleries". The Age. 5 June 1956. p. 2 – via Google News Archive Search.
  5. ^ Information from the gallery file provided by the State Library of Victoria
  6. ^ "Bank Exhibition Pays an Art Dividend". The Argus. Melbourne. 27 November 1956. p. 15. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Varied art styles". The Argus. Melbourne. 18 December 1956. p. 13. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "Painter Shows Value of Tradition". The Age. 9 October 1956. p. 2 – via Google News Archive Search.
  9. ^ "Contrasts in new art show". The Argus. Melbourne. 30 October 1956. p. 11. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "Painters team with potter". The Argus. Melbourne. 11 December 1956. p. 10. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Sculpted Stone Needs 'Good Home'". 23 September 1957. Retrieved 16 January 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  12. ^ "Young Painter Comes to Maturity". 2 July 1957. p. 2. Retrieved 19 January 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  13. ^ ‘Brummel's Gallery, South Yarra, Victoria’, Architecture and Arts, No. 49 (September 1957), p. 44.
  14. ^ "Artist Roves While Works Are Shown". The Age. 30 June 1958. p. 5 – via Google News Archive Search.
  15. ^ "Festival Art is a Winner". The Argus. Melbourne. 20 November 1956. p. 8. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ "The Age". Google News. Google. 7 April 1959. p. 2.
  17. ^ McCaughey, Patrick (22 August 1973). "Pugh's Nudes Tell All". The Age. Google. p. 2.
  18. ^ McCulloch Encyclopaedia of Australian Art, 1994, p.826.
  19. ^ "Plenty of Variety in Exhibitions". The Age. 30 October 1962. Retrieved 14 January 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  20. ^ "Assured". The Age. 13 March 1968 – via Google News Archive Search.
  21. ^ "MIDWEEK MAGAZINE Love of women and life inspires photos". The Canberra Times. 64 (20, 087). Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 11 April 1990. p. 29 – via National Library of Australia.
  22. ^ Paul Taylor: "Peter Gabelle's ‘Photographers Gallery also opened in Bondi later in 1972 but did not last long"Taylor, Paul (1984), Anything goes : art in Australia 1970-1980, Art & Text, ISBN 978-0-9591042-0-2
  23. ^ Geoff Strong: "With hindsight, most of those involved dismiss the suggestion that this golden age was some kind of Australian photographic renaissance – that would be an insult to the older generation who had done much of the work without the support or the fanfare. But something happened in that decade. A convenient starting-point would be when Brummels Gallery first opened with Carol Jerrems' and Henry Talbot's 'Erotica' exhibition in 1972. A convenient finishing-point would be Joyce Evans' decision to close her Church Street Photographic Centre a decade later. The years between saw what was probably the greatest out-pouring of photographic energy that had ever happened in Australia...." Strong, Geoff (1988) 'The Melbourne Movement: fashion and faction in the seventies'. In Bennett, David; Agee, Joyce (1988), The thousand mile stare : a photographic exhibition, Victorian Centre for Photography, The Victorian Centre for Photography Inc, ISBN 978-0-7316-2054-8
  24. ^ Evans, Joyce (2003) Church Street...there once was a place. In Flash Newsletter for Centre for Contemporary Photography 2003 #1 / February ISSN 1039-6489
  25. ^ "Google Maps". Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  26. ^ King, Natalie, 1966– & Heide Museum of Modern Art (2010). Up close: Carol Jerrems with Larry Clark, Nan Goldin and William Yang. Heide Museum of Modern Art : Schwartz Media, Melbourne
  27. ^ Selections of photographs from two exhibitions: Mortal trash is immortal diamond/photographs by Warren Breninger, Godwin Bradbeer. Brummels Gallery of Photography, February 14 – March 12, 1975; Eyelid on eyelid / Jamie Bradbeer, Warren Breninger, Godwin Bradbeer. Brummels Gallery of Photography, March 18 – April 18, 1976. Includes reproductions of the respective catalogues. Limited edition of 20 numbered copies.Bradbeer, Godwin (2014), Mortal trash, 1969–1979, Breninger, Warren, 1948–, (photographer); Bradbeer, Jamie, 1947–, (photographer.); Brummels Gallery of Photography, [Melbourne] [Godwin Bradbeer], retrieved 10 January 2016
  28. ^ George Gittoes showed ‘Rainbow Way’ series of abstract colour photographs at Brummels 1975 Fry, Gavin; Gittoes, George (1998), George Gittoes, Craftsman House, ISBN 978-90-5703-991-1
  29. ^ Painter-Sculptor Ashe Venn showed there in July 1975 "Compact". The Australian Women's Weekly. 30 July 1975. p. 47. Retrieved 10 January 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  30. ^ "Brummels | Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive". Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  31. ^ Burke, Janine (1990), Field of vision : a decade of change: women's art in the seventies, Penguin, p. 21, retrieved 10 January 2016
  32. ^ Gilchrist, Maureen (18 September 1975). "Prints moved into the limelight". p. 22. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  33. ^ Wendy Owen (25 February 1977). "A cut above the rest". p. 9. Retrieved 21 January 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  34. ^ Janine Burke: "Haunting perceptions of personality captured without criticism or cliché. Simple, tough, memorable photographs of friends and strangers". National Times, 2 September 1978
  35. ^ "Witty view needs enlarging". 6 March 1979. p. 2. Retrieved January 19, 2016 – via Google News Archive Search.
  36. ^ "Monash Gallery of Art Annual Report 2012 by Monash Gallery of Art". Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  37. ^ Finch, M. "Brummels." Art & Australia 49, no. 4 (2012): 678. review of MGA show
  38. ^ "BRUMMELS: Australia's first gallery of photography : Press release" (PDF). 30 September 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  39. ^ "The significance of ACP's archives – Photo Social | Thoughts & musings on photography". Archived from the original on 2016-02-04. Retrieved 3 February 2016.