2019 Darkroom Dinner Auction Items
Butler's tray 2009
from the series Empire line
chromogenic print 90.0 x 120.0 cm
courtesy of the artist, Darren Knight Gallery (Sydney) and Jan Manton Gallery (Brisbane)
edition: 1/5 + 2APs
estimate: $5500 – $8500
Robyn Stacey (1952– ) is a Sydney-based photographer who has been exhibiting since the mid-1980s. During the 1980s Stacey produced staged or ‘directorial’ photographs that drew on the visual language of cinema and television. Through the 1990s Stacey experimented extensively with new media including digital photography and lenticular prints. From 2000 Stacey spent over a decade researching and documenting significant Australian and international collections and archives.
This series was the subject of an exhibition at MGA Robyn Stacey: as still as life which explored Stacey’s use of the still-life genre to articulate the fascinating narratives behind the development of historically important collections, harnessing the power of objects as a way to tell these stories. Seductively beautiful, the works are multifaceted and complex. Each object depicted has its own origin story. When combined with other objects these compositions reveal something of the lives of their owners through their impassioned collecting practices.
This butler’s tray is from Elizabeth Bay House and the image was made in response to the reality of life at the house in its heyday as opposed to the way it is presented today, in the genteel English tradition. The Macleay’s, despite Alexander’s position as Colonial Secretary, rarely entertained and the Macleay’s Greek Revival villa would have been in a constant state of flux, with collecting, preserving and cataloguing activities mingling with Macleay’s political career and the daily life of the house and its inhabitants. There are many accounts of boxes of specimens, hessian bags containing assorted native fauna that collectors brought to the house, and glass jars of formaldehyde containing specimens filling the ground floor of Elizabeth Bay House. It made the house part museum, part scientific working space, as well as a home for the Macleays.
Robyn Stacey has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Queensland and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of New South Wales. She was a Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication Arts at the University of Western Sydney and a member of the Visual Arts Board (2006–08) of the Australia Council. Stacey is the recipient of major awards and research grants, including Visual Arts Board grants (New Work 2004), University research grants (Linkage 2006), and a Samstag Scholarship (1994) to study at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She was an artist in residence at the Macleay Museum at Sydney University 2004–06, University of Leiden, Netherlands 2003–06, the Historic Houses Trust of New South Wales 2002, the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney 2001–03, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois 1993. She was commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney in 1996 to produce ‘Love Finger’, a lenticular 3D image for the exhibition Photography is dead! Long live photography!. She is an MGA Collection artist and her work is also held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Queensland Art Gallery, and Artbank, as well as numerous university, corporate and private collections.