In Conversation with Andy Kelly of OIGÅLL PROJECTS

In the scant few years since opening, Oigåll Projects has forged a rather sizeable place for itself in Melbourne's creative landscape. Conceived as a space for founders Andy Kelly and Mitchell Zurek to show their brutalist inspired furniture collection, Brud Studia, the independent commercial gallery has become a shining citadel for art and design alike exhibiting immersive works unified by the explorative spirit with which they were borne. We spoke with Andy about his plans for the gallery this year, starting imminently with a cameo at Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

Open Journal (OJ): I’ve heard an interesting story about the inception of Oigåll Projects. Can you tell me how it began in your own words? What did you and Mitchell do pre Oigåll and why the shift?

Andy Kelly (AK): I’m curious to hear what you’ve heard…OP the gallery started as an accident. We had bought the building on Gertrude St with the initial plan (no plan) of turning the upstairs into our home (which we did) and the downstairs commercial portion into an office/show room for our furniture practice Brud Studia. In the interim, we just started to drop bodies of work from our friends in that they had created over Covid just to keep the space activated and pump some chaotic DNA into the old girls bones. It just kind of stuck - I’m very good at selling things, in another life I was a grifter for sure, so it just turned into a commercial gallery and myself into a gallerist. Poor Brud was shoved out into the courtyard and it was, what it was.

But Oigåll Projects is a lot of things. The gallery is one branch and then there is all the other weird design offsite projects Mitchell and I take on. Mitchell is a Landscape Architect. Was before this nonsense, still is, and honestly is the single best designer I have ever worked with. He has such a clear and direct vision it is really inspiring to watch him design spaces inside and out. Our apartment is a testament to that and honestly I am so proud of him. Myself, I have lived so many lives and swapped so many hats so often who would know anymore.

OJ: How does Oigåll differ from other galleries in terms of what is exhibited, how the relationship with the artistic landscape is cultivated and the way you both work with artists?

AK: To be honest it probably doesn't differ that much to your standard commercial gallery in regards to format. We find artists and designers we like - we show the work - we push them - we sell it - we take a clip. We are probably a little looser than other galleries, maybe not so earnest and that probably comes from;

a. That we show as much design as we do art and it's a little more relaxed; and

b. We have no formal idea of what we are doing. We run more on instinct and feeling

I owe A LOT to galleries like Sophie Gannon Gallery (Aunty Sophie and Edwin), having the support of some absolute TITANS of the commercial gallery industry to help and guide me. I find the cohort I am in all share the same goals and vision —show work we are proud to show, make heaps of cash for those artists and ourselves so we can keep showing the work we are proud to show.

OJ: How do you go about curating the stable of artists? What kind of creative ingenues do you see the space being aligned to?

AK: I have never used that word “ingenues” before. I just had to look it up on Google and I still don't really understand what it means haha.

When we started it was our friends mostly showing work they had made and we were also lucky that our friends are really talented established artists and designers which meant we started with a really high bar of what OP expects and delivers - BRUD can't get more than a group show drop in there.

Now there are still our friends and also some other people whose work we really admire but they become our friends too so it's kind of same same.

We like materials and people who push their chosen material to the limit. We are aligned to that - practices that are squeezing the last drop of juice out of what they are doing, who aren't following a set of rules, who no matter how developed in the practice they may be are still exploring.

OJ: I understand that you are designing a new VIP and hospitality space for this year’s Melbourne Art Fair? Can you tell me a little more about what you’re doing and what everyone visiting can expect?

AK: Not like any VIP space you’ve seen before. It's a love letter to the materials of infrastructure. It is more of an installation - where you as a guest become part of this woven tapestry.

Also VIP — what is a VIP? Look, if you buy a ticket to ART FAIR and you get up and support the MAF you’re a VIP to us so you are more than welcome to come in and see the crazy we have dreamed up for you. Lots of galvanised steel stud framing and rubberised canvas.

OJ: What does Michael Gittings’ work bring to the space?

AK: Michael is one of the collective of artists/designers presenting work in the space. On top of designing and building what is essentially a 300sq gallery in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre we will also be curating a show. When do they sleep you must be asking haha!

We have work from; Michael Gittings, Robert Hague, Anna Varendorff, Cordon Salon, Brud Studia (tossed em a bone), Jeremy Blincoe, Tom Fereday.

Its a mix of collectable design and contemporary art that employs a lot of design techniques in its fabrication.

OJ: Where do galleries fit within today’s contemporary art world? How do they continue to ensure art remains a way of orienting with the world?

AK: Art and design will always define what the world is. It's like the universal language that documents how things are at the time it's being made. The chair is the best example - I’m not getting side tracked I am putting a pin in that thought. Galleries don’t ensure this, galleries commercialise this. We make it viable for the authors to keep writing. It costs heaps + gst to be an artist. Our role in all this, is to keep their lights on and we are laser focused and very real about that.

We have an agenda, and it’s that the work we select to be shown in the gallery is to us, the best most important work we have ever seen and to show that to people. To change their lives, have them invest in us and the artist who made it, then live with these objects for the rest of their natural lives where upon their deaths, they are then so coveted by their children it causes huge family disputes on who inherits them.

OJ: You’ve recently announced the 2024 line-up on Instagram. What’s in store?

AK: Lots of collectable design, a little more lightness and joy, more humour, some crushing blows of deep unresolved sadness and tension, unrivalled craftsmanship, lamps, very loud music, polka dots, lots of stainless steel, and then some very curious trees.

Special thanks to Andy Kelly of Oigåll Projects. Visit the gallery at 122 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy or find out more on theirwebsite and Instagram. Interview by Tiffany Jade. Photography by Annika Kafcaloudis.