After 35 years Brenda May moves her gallery online


Brenda May is about to shut the doors on her MAY SPACE gallery in Sydney, but she is most definitely not closing up shop.

After 35 years of working with artists May says, “I can’t walk away from it. I just can’t!” Instead, in 2021 her bricks and mortar gallery will transition to a purpose-built digital platform.

The gallerist admits that her decision to move online is related to the pandemic, but not in the way you might think. “The last four to five months have been phenomenal,” she explains, “We are doing extremely well. So really I’m going out on a high.”

35 years of Galleries, l – r: Access Art Gallery, Access
Contemporary Art Gallery, Brenda May Galley, MAY

May’s move reflects cultural reality more than financial necessity. “This year has changed everybody. It has changed life, it has changed the whole world,” she says. “There’s going to be a new normal.” And for May, moving out of the white cube and into cyber space is just the latest logical move in her long career.

In 1985 May opened her first space, Access Contemporary Art Gallery, in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern, long before it was chic. In 2001 she was again at the vanguard when she moved her venture, now called Brenda May Gallery, into the new Danks Street art complex in Waterloo. In 2016 she moved once more and changed the gallery name to MAY SPACE. And the next move heralds a name change too: MAY SPACE ONLINE

Installation view: Loribelle Spirovski ‘Memory Palace’, Todd Fuller ‘Max’s House’, September 2020.

All of these moves seem to come at just the right time. “I’m totally non-creative,” the gallerist admits. “I don’t have the imagination or the talent.” But, as her 35-years in the art world attest to, what she clearly does have is a surfeit of business acumen, tenacity and organisational ability. And this skill-set, along with a restless energy and love of both art and hard work, is what drove her to open her first gallery.

“Being able to work with artists; helping people with talent who perhaps don’t have the skills that I have, this has been a fantastic thing,” May says, “And I still look forward to coming to work every day.”

The last round of shows at MAY SPACE is on until 19 December and MAY SPACE ONLINE will kick-off in 2021. Brenda May admits that she is absolutely not ready to stop working with artists anytime soon. She’s going to inhabit the digital realm for 12 months, then consider her next move.

News Words by Tracey Clement