Interview

In July, the directors of much-loved Sydney artist run initiative MOP Projects announced that the long-running gallery will close in December this year after more than 400 exhibitions which have supported the careers of up to 800 artists. Sharne Wolff spoke to MOP co-founder and co-director George Adams about MOP’s legacy and the future of the gallery space in Chippendale.

Sharne Wolff: For those who are unfamiliar with MOP Projects, can you give us a potted history?

George Adams: We [George, his partner Ron Adams and a collective of others] opened MOP 14 years ago when there was a lack of artist run initiatives and galleries doing shows for people who were graduating from universities and art schools. We opened MOP with a show from two of the first three PhD recipients from Sydney College of the Arts. We built a reputation really fast because of the two artists from SCA, and our business knowledge and people skills.

SW: Has MOP always been in the same space?

GA: The original space in Elizabeth Street, Redfern was in a rag-trade building. It was fantastic. It had a rickety lift and we always wondered whether we’d get to the top. We had two small spaces lit by eight fluorescent lights! We moved to Chippendale when another dealer offered the space to us when he decided to let it go.

SW: How did the name ‘MOP Projects’ come about?

GA: MOP actually stands for Modes of Practice but no one ever called it that because MOP was more fun. It’s called MOP Projects because we thought it would only last a year or two. We never thought it would last for 14 years!

SW: In 2012 the Chippendale space was subdivided when you, together with Ron and Samantha Ferris, established Galerie Pompom. Can you tell us a bit about the changes that have taken place?

Over the last four years, we’ve incrementally changed the spaces and Galerie Pompom has come about. We’ve been able to give artists more opportunity to get into a commercial gallery to make more out of their practice. It’s been a slow process but an interesting, incremental change to something better.

The move to close MOP is part of an organic change. I love that. I think it’s life. We’ve moved from one good thing to the next good thing, and if you’re actually helping the community, I think it’s a great thing.

SW: How about some of the highs of the last 14 years?

GA: I’d have to say, making a real impression by what we’ve been doing here and really establishing a lot of artists into their chosen careers, working with a fantastic group of talented (mostly) young people, and thirdly, always having that future outlook. For example, I’ve started work on the Galerie Pompom 2017–2018 program and I’ve almost nailed down 2017. I can’t wait to see those shows up, and work with those artists, and I’m so excited about those shows now! So I’m always living in the future and excited about what’s coming up. I love seeing an artist’s progression and that’s been our success.

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MOP Projects exhibition opening, 2015.

SW: There must have been some funny moments at MOP?

GA: Yes, two performances come to mind. One was in the early years at the old MOP Projects. A performance got really quite intense and the artist, I think, got stage fright. The idea was that the artist would do a performance where he would run out of the gallery, change costume, and then come back again. We all waited…but he didn’t reappear and we never saw him again for a long time after that!

The other one was with Mark Shorter aka Renny Kodgers. He did a show with us once when he covered himself with (I think) egg yolk, and pasted feathers on himself. He had these glasses on and couldn’t see. He came out totally naked, got himself through a hole in the wall and he was then supposed to walk through the crowd in the gallery and disappear. He came out, couldn’t see and there were so many people there he had to walk out into the street in his chicken outfit. All the traffic stopped and it was one of the funniest things you have ever seen!

SW: Are you planning anything special to commemorate MOP’s closure? Will emerging artists still have a place to show their work?

GA: Yes, we’re planning several events. The very last day at MOP will be in December this year. We’ve already held a MOP exhibition at Grace Cossington Smith Gallery. The second show, M.O.P., will be held at Verge Gallery and the third, which will concentrate on the MOP archives, will be part of the 2017 Artspace Ideas Platform.

To coincide with the archive history of MOP, I’ve applied for funding to do a book. I’ve got a great group of writers, designers and an amazing list of people who’ve been so supportive over the last decade and a half that I think we’ve put together a really good proposal. So far as the history goes, we’ve kept great records and we have everything so I’m really excited about all of it! At the same time, we’ll be opening our new emerging artist’s space at Galerie Pompom.

The final show at MOP is:

Kate Vassallo: Logical Alterations
16 November – 11 December

M.O.P
Verge Gallery
3 November – 3 December

Sharne Wolff