Curator Yarran Gatsby, 26, says people can expect to see a divergent group of artists telling stories exploring notions of history in The Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship Exhibition for Emerging Artists which opens at UNSW Galleries later this month.

“What I found most exciting about the work that this group of artists is entering is they really do tell exciting counter narratives in regards to alternative queer history, feminist histories and diaspora cross-cultural histories,” the UNSW Master of Curating & Cultural Leadership student says.

“I expect the audience to be presented with this vibrant array of rich storytelling and knowledge sharing.”

The exhibition opened at UNSW Galleries in Paddington on September 29 and features work by 10 early career contemporary artists who were awarded this year’s Freedman Foundation Travelling scholarships to undertake formal study, residency, mentorship or informal study for a planned research project.

The exhibition includes works by the 2018 scholars: Caroline Garcia (NSW and New York), Shireen Taweel (NSW), Lu Forsberg (Qld), Mimi Kind (NSW) and Jimmy Nuttall (Vic).

The exhibition will also showcase works by the returning 2016 scholars: Alice Couttoupes (NSW), Brigette Hart (Vic and England), Olivia Koh (Vic), Anna McMahon (NSW) and Georgia Saxelby (NSW and Washington DC).

Mr Gatsby received a Curatorial Scholarship from The Freedman Foundation, giving him an opportunity to curate the exhibition.

“This will be undoubtedly my most prestigious, generous and most momentous award I’ve received thus,” he says.

“The (private philanthropic organisation) Freedman Foundation is incredibly prestigious, surrounded by incredible company, and I’m quite humbled to stand alongside some of the artists and curators who have won this award in the past.”

Yarran Gatsby Courtesy of the artist. .jpg

Yarran Gatsby. Courtesy of the artist. 


National Association for the Visual Arts (NAVA) general manager Penelope Benton says The Freedman Foundation Curatorial Scholarship was established by NAVA in 2015 to support the mentorship of a student to deliver this annual exhibition as a major project.

"We are thrilled to support the development of Yarran Gatsby's practice through this program and know he has gained a great deal from working with Jose Da Silva ​at UNSW Galleries over the last few months," she says. 

Mr Gatsby has been described by Museums & Galleries of NSW as “a dedicated advocate for emerging arts communities” who has held positions at Alaska Projects, Fine Arts Sydney and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

He is one half of Complaints Department, a participatory artwork he created with Angela Garrick, where complaints from the public were improvised by an orchestra which performed at last year’s Underbelly Arts Festival.

This year, Mr Gatsby also won the Kudos Early Career Curator Award with UNSW Art Theory honours student Jenny Anagnostopoulos, for their project which explores the idiosyncrasies involved with the occupation and navigation of space.

Mr Gatsby grew up in Canberra and started studying Fine Arts at ANU, before changing to Fashion at UTS, then going back to Art History & Theory at the University of Sydney and the University of Helsinki.

“I’ve always been drawn to creative communities,” he says, adding that his passion for art and fashion stemmed from his interest in music.

“I did musicals as a child, I played in a punk band, I love hip-hop, my father is a jazz musician, I’ve always been surrounded by music.

“Once I first engaged with art in an academic and professional space, I soon found myself responding to it in a passionate manner and I haven’t looked back.”

During his master’s studies at UNSW, he benefited from practical experiences such as editing small publication and curating exhibitions.

“I have learnt a lot more when thrust into a practical environment and UNSW has truly facilitated that,” he says.

Mr Gatsby will move to New York later this year to complete his master’s at leading US design school, Parsons School of Design.

“What better place to complete one’s master’s than in New York where there are so many opportunities for early career artists and curators,” he says.

“New York seems the next logical step.”

He says he’s open to a variety of experiences within the arts.

“Essentially I want to be making exhibitions and supporting artists.”