How a Sydney Gallery Fosters International Artistic Exchange

When German-born gallerist Dominik Mersch left Europe for Australia in 2006, he brought some of the continent with him. Today, his eponymous gallery complements its impressive Australian line-up with a stunning array of artists from around the world. As one of the few art spaces in the country—and the only in Sydney—to devote as much wall space to international artists as it does Australians, Dominik Mersch Gallery is connecting Australia to a global art market by cultivating a knowledgeable, homegrown clientele. Through its carefully assembled roster of artists and far-flung curatorial activities, it’s also sparking dynamic cross-continental conversations.

Mersch’s interest in blending the local with the global is as clear in his gallery’s exhibitions as it is in the origins of his artists. In a recent exhibition, acclaimed Australian artist Janet Laurence presented work that is both highly localized and broadly relevant: glass specimen cases containing leaves, vines, and flowers gathered during Laurence’s trip to Kimberley (a remote section of northwestern Australia) and gorgeously vivid layered images of the region’s primeval forests speak to the fragility of the country’s natural reserves, but also to the wider health of the planet. German artist Elger Esser’s photographs of anonymous landscapes—liminal places that could be anywhere—work in a similar fashion. Since the mid 1990s, Esser has captured the horizon at secluded beaches, waterways and wetlands across Europe, Africa, and North America, treating them with a uniformly monochromatic finish that lends them a surreal effect. For an upcoming show at Dominik Mersch Gallery, Esser has turned his lens on lighthouses, shipwrecks, and piers along the Australian coast, but, as in Laurence’s work, the specific yields to the general; the lonely locales could be anywhere.

Last summer Mersch proved his commitment to artistic exchange, swapping spaces with Berlin’s Galerie Patrick Ebensperger. For a month, Mersch and Ebensperger had free rein to curate an exhibition in their adopted gallery, sending the Sydney roster to Berlin and vice versa. The the swap not only facilitated new exposure for each gallery’s artists, it also introduced audiences to unfamiliar work, fostered new networks of collectors, and upped the ante on international cross-pollination.


—Jenny Florence


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