The curator

Interview with Mikala Tai

“We definitely have to be on the hustle, some people feel that’s being too ambitious and ambition is a dirty word but I think unless you’re out there and you are pushing it won’t happen.” Mikala Tai.

 

Mikala Tai is prolific.

She’s managed the L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival’s Cultural Program, run a commercial art gallery, lectures on Contemporary Art at RMIT and researches, curates and advises on art culture.

Thousands of you recently attended the Supergraph Contemporary Graphic Art Fair she founded in 2014 and in brilliant news the event is opening at London’s ‘Pick Me Up‘ Graphic Arts Festival in two days!

During our chat Mikala shares how important it is to be “on the hustle” and to figure out what we can’t do and recruit accordingly.

image

Photo – Prue Aja.

Martine Harte: Mikala I’ve heard the idea for Supergraph came about because as a lecturer you were witnessing art graduates struggling with the next step in their careers?

 

Mikala Tai: Yes, the art world is extremely structured.

You go to art school, you come out in the big, bad world and have a few options: either you start doing artist run spaces – but you can spend a lot of money renting your own space and producing your work – or you can chase commercial representation with a contemporary gallery owner which is also really difficult.

The average price in Australia to buy art from an art fair is about one thousand dollars (if you’re lucky) at Supergraph you can buy graphic art starting at thirty dollars.

We’re about bridging the gap by getting artists work out there and people buying art which isn’t really expensive.

 

Guess it also enables you guys to discover new talent?

 

Mikyla Tai: Applications start appearing in our inbox in July, as soon as we get the first one everyone stops and comes and reads them, it’s really exciting.

Some people who we worked with last year – we almost had to twist their arms to be involved – they’ve now quit their day jobs.

 

That’s awesome. Social media must have been a renaissance of sorts for the art world..

 

Mikyla Tai: Exactly. You can sell straight from Instagram and it’s reinvigorating the entire industry and allowing artists to have more control over what they can do and how they can entice, entertain or engage with their audience.

For the art world that can be quite scary because the middle man, the gallerist or the dealer is not necessarily needed anymore. It’s a really interesting shifting period.

 

Have you felt like you are treading on any toes?

 

Mikyla Tai: Not really. We’re definitely not building ourselves up to be an agency. We work with all the agencies. We are a one-stop platform once a year in Melbourne.

 

Marion Potts (the recently appointed Director of Theatre at the Australia Council for the Arts) told me we should always push ourselves out of our comfort zone and not be afraid of failing, you agree?

 

Mikyla Tai: Definitely. We definitely have to be on the hustle, some people feel that’s being too ambitious and ambition is a dirty word but I think unless you’re out there and you are pushing it won’t happen.

You can do it in a completely nice and approachable way but as an artist you are a small business and you have to work your brand.

One thing I get really noisy about teaching at RMIT (Tai lectures at RMIT and Melbourne University) is the need to have accounting training.

When you leave the first thing you’re doing is your own books, you have to learn these small business skills.

I went to uni and said, “I don’t want to do any maths or science,” but I learnt the hard way. If I had done even a few electives if would have lessened the business pain earlier on.

 

Is there a moment you didn’t speak up when you wish you had?

 

Mikala: Many times. I avoid confrontation like the plague but I need to get better at manning up when I need to. My friends tell me I am improving in this area.
image
 Photo – Prue Aja.

What has been your greatest business learning?

Mikyla Tai: That if you think it is a good idea, it probably is.
If it feels a bit odd, it probably is. Trust your instincts.
image
 Photo – Prue Aja.

Shareable life learning?

Mikala Tai: Figure out what you can’t do (or don’t like doing!) and employ people who excel in those areas.
They will do a much better job of it in a third of the time you will do a paltry job of it.
image
Photo – Prue Aja.

Ok, so lastly.. what’s your guilty pleasure?

Mikala Tai: Tequila.
Applications are open for next year’s Supergraph soon, you can find affordable art from so many super talented Australian artists online over here.
image
Photo – Prue Aja
image
Photo – Prue Aja and her beautiful poppet with a knack for paper planes!
image
Photo – Prue Aja
image
Photo – Prue Aja
image
Photo – Prue Aja
image
Photo – Prue Aja
image
Another striking – Prue Aja photo.
So if you’re in London (lucky you!) head to Somerset House for ‘Pick Me Ups’ sixth year, featuring a fresh line-up of artists and designers bringing the best of new illustration, graphic design and related disciplines to inspire and delight.
Enjoy your heath walks and ciders in the sun in London Mikala!

About Martine Harte

Martine Harte is founder of Engaging Women, a platform for social good.
She is a dedicated voice in the advancement of women & girls. Contact info@engagingwomen.com.au to learn how you could be featured.

Learn more about her here and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.


Comments