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Profile: Stella Downer

16 September 2010
Trevor Gager & Stella Downer

Arts Hub

What did you want to be when you grew up?

To be involved with the visual arts. I always enjoyed painting and drawing and making things.

What did you become?

The owner of my own gallery, Stella Downer Fine Art.

What's your official title?

Director, but I don't really have a title.

What's your background - how did you end up here?

Art school in London; art history courses in Florence; worked for Christies Auctioneers London for 5 years and was then sent back to Australia to run Christies Melbourne office. Director Contemporary Art Society Adelaide, BA Sydney University, manager Macquarie Galleries Sydney and Australian Galleries Sydney and now my own gallery.

How would you describe your work to a complete stranger?

I tell people I own a contemporary commercial art gallery and do art valuation work for people and institutions all over Australia.

What's the first thing career related you usually do each day?

Listen to the radio and read the papers, then make telephone calls.

Can you describe an "average" working day for you?

‘Average' is not a word known to me. ‘Variety' and ‘diversity' and ‘patience' are words that relate to my average working day.

Who or what in the arts world most inspires you?

Many of the artists with whom I work. They are constantly inventive and creative. Also a couple of gallery owners have been an inspiration to me.

What's the toughest challenge you've dealt with on the job?

Juggling the many diverse aspects of every day life; getting through the never ending piles of work to be done; having thinking and inspirational time.

What's the best piece of advice you were ever given for your career?

Life begins at 40. Anne Purves of Australian Galleries told me this. She also said, go to openings, have a glass of water, wear flat shoes, stay long enough for people to see you and then go home.

What are the top three skills you need in your particular role?

Selection of exhibiting artists; organization; ability to be engage with people.

What's the best thing about your job?

Knowing it is my own business and that I am not beholden to anyone - well except the artists I represent, my wonderful staff and my clients. I love it all.

And the worst?

Technical problems.

If you had to sum your working life in a word or phrase, what would it be?

Stimulating and worthwhile.

Tell us something unique about your gallery in 300 words or less

Worthwhile commercial galleries depend on the owner's aesthetic and judgement. I try to show a variety of mediums, being painting, works on paper, ceramics and sculpture. I like to combine aspects of all these works in the exhibitions. I also offer valuation and collection advice to clients.

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