In Conversation with Anouska Phizacklea

Who is Anouska Phizacklea?

Anouska Phizacklea (BA (hons), MA, MCom, CPA, GAICD) is Director of Monash Gallery of Art (MGA), the Australian home of photography. Prior to MGA Anouska held senior management positions at Heide Museum of Modern Art and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) and worked for many years in art research and valuations in galleries and auction houses in Melbourne and London.

Who (or what) inspires you?

New ideas and things that make me think or see the world differently – that inspires me. It is truly exhilarating when you get to collaborate and the creative symbioses starts flowing. At the heart of it lies a desire to connect – to create ways for people to engage with the creative process. It can be so powerful. Having worked across so many art forms, from literature to old master painting to challenging contemporary conceptual performance, it is that moment when someone turns to you and goes, ‘I don’t like conceptual art but I love that’ means you’ve made a point of connection and engagement that has transcended the art form. Great art to me always seems to transcend its boundaries, that’s what inspires me. I’m so lucky to be a part of it.

How did you get your first break?

I feel I have been given so many ‘first’ breaks throughout my career, it’s been a journey of discovery as I’ve moved through different fields in the arts, picking up skills and expertise with each opportunity and at each step there has always been a mentor who has believed in me. This has made all the difference. It was the head of Sotheby’s who advised me to move to London to do my Masters when I was in my early 20s. Working, living and studying in London changed me and opened up my eyes to a vibrant arts scene competing on a global stage. I wound up interning for a prestigious art gallery taking part in the inaugural Moscow Fair where I was fortunate enough to work with seminal artworks by artists such as Rubens, Picasso and Warhol. Fast forward a few years (and another masters degree later) it was my appointment to ACCA, one of Australia’s leading contemporary art galleries. This had the greatest impact on my career and changed the trajectory. It is why I am where I am today.

Tell us what you are currently working on?

What am I not working on might be the question. Being the Director means I get to work across all areas with an amazing group of passionate colleagues and artists. I’m currently curating an exhibition called Legacy. Your Collection Our Story. which highlights the impact donors have had on developing MGA’s nationally significant and unique collection of Australian photographs. I’m also in the midst of the Darkroom Dinner preparations, MGA’s marquee fundraising event for the year, as well as researching and writing copy and text for publications. You name it I get to do it all and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s varied, challenging and exhilarating.

Top tips for someone wanting to work in the gallery world?

I know it sounds very corporate but diversify your skill set. In the gallery world, like any arts area, it’s very hard to get a job and when you do you wind up wearing many hats. This is both what is challenging and exciting about working in the arts, you never know what aspect of your skill set will set you apart. I don’t know of one person who has had the same trajectory or followed the same path to become, for example, Director of a gallery. Doing a myriad of degrees won’t necessarily take you where you want to go, but then who am I to talk. Take whatever is thrown at you and run with it and don’t be afraid of taking risks and huge leaps of faith. Some you’ll pull off and others you won’t, but taking calculated risks is what the arts are all about. Find great mentors who will support and guide you to learn from and lean on. And never be afraid to ask for help.

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