Adrian Newstead - Director of Coo-ee Art Gallery
Adrian Newstead established Coo-ee Aboriginal art Gallery in 1981. A former President of the Indigenous Art Trade Association and Director of Aboriginal Tourism Australia he became the Head of Aboriginal Art for Lawson~Menzies in 2003, and Managing Director of Menzies Art Brands until 2008. An Aboriginal art consultant, dealer, and art commentator, based in Bondi, NSW, he has 30 years experience working in Aboriginal and Australian Contemporary art.
The Early Days
Brought up in an artistic family, Adrian studied Agricultural Science at university and graduated with a major in ecology and the natural and life sciences. He was the Chairman of Debating at Sydney University (1970-1971) and the President of the Australasian Association of Agricultural Faculties. In this role he organised the 1971 International student conference attended by more than 300 students from universities throughout Australia and New Zealand.
During the years immediately following graduation Adrian travelled overseas initially working as a freelance journalist in Asia and the Middle East. He returned to Australia having spent several years on Kibbutz Sdot Yam, in Israel, where he was responsible for the work schedules of more than 100 international volunteers. In 1976 he opened a restaurant, The Bay Tree, and his first art gallery in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.
With his friend Louise Ferrier, Adrian opened Coo-ee Emporium in 1981 dedicated to presenting art as a unique reflection of the Australian environment. Included were relief prints and hand made Australian art and craft by prominent Australian artists including glass artists Nick Mount and Warren Langley; ceramicists Jeff Minchum, Jenny Orchard and Freya Povey; fabric and clothes designers Bruce Gould and Peter Tulley; and jewelers Kate Durham, Robyn Gordon, and the founders of Dinosaur Designs. Throughout the early 1980's Coo-ee Emporium along with Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson's fashion boutique Flamingo Park, Chrissie Brett's Cafe La Passion du Fruit, Anthea Lennard's cake shop Sweet Art and Janet Alstergren's Rancho de Lux became the epitome of ‘Sydney Chic’.
Adrian began working with Aboriginal communities in 1981 when Coo-ee Emporium held the first exhibition for Tiwi Design of Bathurst Island. By 1985, when prominent Aboriginal identity Joe Croft became a partner in the business, Aboriginal art had become its primary interest. The company organized more than 100 exhibitions of Aboriginal art in Australia and overseas during the following decade.
As a prominent retailer in Sydney's Paddington precinct through the 1980's and 1990's, Adrian acted as the President of the Chamber of Commerce and Chair of the joint working party between Woollahra and South Sydney Councils for more than a decade. In that role he steered the rezoning and streetscape refurbishments of this lively tourism precinct through both councils.
As an Aboriginal art dealer Adrian Newstead initiated the Best in Sydney project and consortium within the Crafts Council of Australia and was a founding member of Austrade’s Visual Arts Export Panel in the early 1990’s. He went on to be the prime mover behind the establishment of the powerful Australian Indigenous Art Trade Association by bringing together gallery owners from across Australia to conferences at the Queensland Art Gallery, and later in Alice Springs. This role required considerable industry-wide consultation and the management of deep-seated enmities within the trade; the establishment of an industry code of ethics and business practice; and the development of its constitution. While still running a profitable gallery, he championed this vital industry development and as its National President, steered it through its difficult formative years. The Association, now more than a decade old, plays a vital role in high-level industry discussions and planning; leads delegations to the federal minister for the Arts; and presents major submissions to enquiries and arts development strategies from the commercial sector of the industry. In addition Adrian served for many years on the board of Aboriginal Tourism Australia and currently acts as a trustee and board member of the Aboriginal Benefits Foundation established from proceeds of art sales for the benefit of Indigenous health and education projects in Northern and Central Australia. Amongst the many areas of support it addresses are Indigenous epilepsy, youth suicide and mental health.
Well known for his lengthy contribution to the development of Aboriginal artists and their work, Adrian was the first art dealer to organise art exhibitions by the Tiwi people of Bathurst and Melville Islands, the printmakers of the Western Torres Strait Islands, the Spinifex people of the Great Victoria Desert, and the first commercial gallerist to publicly exhibit urban Aboriginal art. He acted as the first publisher of Aboriginal prints and created the Australian Art Print Network , an international art print network that sells, promotes, and exhibits, Aboriginal prints and metal sculpture including large scale commissioned public sculptures. During the period 1990-1994 Adrian curated and toured the largest exhibition of Indigenous limited edition prints ever assembled throughout the United States of America and Australia. The show was nominated by the prestigious magazine ‘Art In America’ as the fourth best exhibition to tour museums in the United States during 1994.
Over his time as a gallery manager and dealer Adrian has worked with, supported, and represented, many of the great early masters of Aboriginal art, presenting their art in his Sydney gallery and visiting them in the bush to encourage and help develop their work. These artists included Rover Thomas, Abie Jangala, Lorna Fencer, Dennis Nona, David Malangi and many others.
Secondary Art Market Experience
In 2003 Adrian Newstead became the Head of Aboriginal Art for Lawson~Menzies part of the 100% Australian owned multimillion dollar Deutscher~Menzies Art Auction Group. In this role he coordinated two sales of Aboriginal fine art each year from 2004 to 2007 building their Aboriginal art sales from $1M to $9.1M annually. During 2006 with total sales exceeding $8M Lawson~Menizes and Coo-ee Gallery outsold Sotheby's and placed more Aboriginal art than anyone else in the world, a remarkable achievement by any standard. In 2007 he became Managing Director of Deutscher Menzies. Australian records were broken for both Australian contemporary and Aboriginal art during a year that saw its sales of Australian fine art increase from $32M to $65M under his stewardship. At the same time he supervised the company's major re-branding to become MenziesArtBrands.
Back to the Future
At the start of 2008, after yearning to work once more with artists and art communities, Adrian Newstead and his staff returned to a full time commitment to Coo-ee Aboriginal Art Gallery. He is currently completing a book on the history of the Aboriginal art market and a website, that will include a profile and market analysis of the 100 most important Indigenous artists of all time. As a director of the Aboriginal Benefits Foundation he is working to raise the $1M required to build a Healing Centre in Yirrkala, North East Arnhem Land.
In every area of his life, from his early student days to the many business projects and community based initiatives he has masterminded along the way, Adrian Newstead has applied his determination to succeed in his passion for making a real difference to the lives of those he works with. It has been his passion to support artists, in particular Australian Indigenous artists and their communities, that has been the foundation of his enviable success and will continue to be so in the future.