Designer Dion Lee cover the issue #9 of Manuscript magazine, photographed by Paul Scala.
I didn’t attend the Art Gallery of South Australia under its previous director, but I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times in the past year. Since Nick Mitzevich took the reins of the gallery amid accusations of poor funding and state disregard it has undergone one of the greatest transformations seen by a state institution, but not in the way that other galleries are attempting to deal with the changing art landscape, with ill-thought-out renovations and extensions and attention-seeking exhibitions. Instead, Mr Mitzevich has capitalised on the gallery’s rich holdings, re-presenting works in unexpected, ambitious hangs that follow themes and narratives rather than periods or genres.
There are naysayers, of course – as there always is when one steps too far outside of the box – but Mr Mitzevich should be commended for re-engaging the Adelaide public, with record attendance figures in the past two years. With two major exhibitions slated for the year ahead, including Fashion Icons, drawn from Les Arts Decoratifs in Paris, the gallery is set to become an international destination, too. On page 36, Alison Kubler writes about an aspect of our national character that is far removed from the comfortable stereotype, a notion explored in Mr Mitzevich’s 2014 Adelaide Biennial, aptly titled Dark Heart, which has just opened, featuring work by some of our country’s best, including Fiona Hall, Ian Strange, Martin Bell and Julie deVille. As Ms Kubler writes: “At the very least a show of this national cultural importance should provoke more questions than answers and it would seem that this biennial, at the time of writing, is well on it sway to achieving this.”
While Australian art has long been well represented internationally, our fashion industry has traditionally failed to make any real impact beyond our own shores. Of course, there have been milestones made – Martin Grant’s success in Paris, for example – but I don’t think it’s too bold to say that no Australian designer has been able to build a truly global business in the high-end category in recent times. That is, of course, until Dion Lee, our cover star, whose meteoric rise is the result of a well honed but continually developing style and absolute commitment to the size and operation of his business.
Mr Lee hints at launching a menswear range later this year, complementing his two womenswear lines, but it’s not for this reason alone that we have profiled him in this issue [see page 54 for more]. Indeed, it was always our mission to feature Australian men doing great things and who are respected internationally, and I can’t think of a more appropriate example than Mr Lee, who recently returned from another hugely successful showing in New York City soon after opening his debut concept store in Sydney. Did I mention that he’s only 28? Bravo.
Until next time,
Mitchell Oakley Smith
Editor & Publisher