The Brett Whiteley Studio Surry Hills is managed as a museum by the Art Gallery of NSW. People who have driven past the art gallery from the domain heading to the airport or the eastern suburbs would have seen the large Whiteley sculpture on the art gallery lawns, two matches, one unlit and one burnt. There is a miniature version of the matches sculpture on the wall outside the studio at 2 Raper Street Surry Hills. The studio was home and workplace for this amazing artist and it is open to the public from 10:00am to 4:00pm Fridays to Sundays (admission free, made possible by J.P. Morgan).
Whiteley bought the old t-shirt factory/warehouse in 1985 and turned it into a studio and exhibition space. He lived there from 1987 until his death in 1992. The atmosphere is still all there – unfinished paintings, art gear and his graffiti wall with its scribbles and quotes. The living area is full of memorabilia (postcards, photos, sketches and his music collection) and the gallery has changing exhibitions of the artist’s works. There is a small shop on the premises but no café – but visitors are welcome to go for a wander to grab a coffee or snack at one of the many spots nearby and return to continue exploring/browsing. The Studio is split over two levels. The main exhibition space is on the ground floor, with Brett’s living room and studio on the top floor. Access for people with limited mobility is available on the ground floor only, however detailed photos of the top floor are available.
This 'museum' one of Sydney’s best kept secrets – as well as the changing exhibitions from arguably the century’s most important Australian painter (who was also amazingly prolific) there are drawing classes at the studio and monthly poetry readings. In 2014 the exhibitions include Whiteley’s interpretation of Nature, an exhibition of his Portraits and the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship 2014. More details about what’s on and when here.
PS – the charcoal & ink sketch is titled ‘Shankar’and was drawn in 1966. The ‘Big Matchsticks’ at the back of the Art Gallery of NSW have the title, ‘Almost Once’.