This article was published in The Newcastle Herald ‘Weekender’ print edition and online on November 4, 2019. Images by Mick Ross.
Sitting above Curve Gallery on Hunter Street in Newcastle’s East End is the Curve Art Apartment, a beautiful one-bedroom property stylishly furnished with mid-century pieces and contemporary artworks.
The Curve Art Apartment is the work of Lisa Who, an artist, curator and creative director of Curve Gallery, a contemporary art space she opened in Newcastle in 2012.
The first incarnation of the gallery was established in Liverpool, in the UK, in 2007, where Lisa lived with her husband, Wayne Heaton, before they returned to Newcastle.
After painting and meticulously styling the apartment, Lisa listed it on Airbnb in March of this year.
She hoped it would be a place that helped introduce and connect guests with Newcastle’s art scene. It also serves a space for international Curve artists-in-residence to stay.
She considers the Art Apartment to be an extension of Curve Gallery.
“It’s a space for clients to see artwork in a different setting,” she explains.
“Often on Thursday and Fridays, when the gallery is open, if people are not staying in the apartment, then people are invited to walk between both spaces.”
Works by artists that have exhibited at Curve feature throughout the home in a way that seamlessly complements the carefully curated space and furnishings.
In the light-filled front room of the spacious apartment, which has large front-facing windows that overlook Hunter Street, sits an eclectic mix of works.
Among them, an aqua 2.5-metre-tall pencil, titled ‘Upright’, by Joanna and Warwick O’Toole, a yellow powder-coated steel sculpture, called ‘Four Piece Prop’ by Braddon Snape, and a subtle framed piece by artist Lezlie Tilley, which was made with 10,696 tiny pieces of stone.
Lisa regularly moves around and swapping the artworks.
“I am always changing little pieces,” she notes.
She said she’ll re-style the apartment with different artworks in the lead up to Curve’s summer exhibition, which will open in mid-December and feature eight emerging artists across ceramics, sculpture and design.
“Having the Art Apartment just allows for a bit more experimentation,” says Lisa.
She notes it gives her the ability to curate contemporary art in a more relaxed and domestic setting.
“It has also given me an outlet for my furniture collecting,” Lisa jokes of her affection for mid-century furniture and design pieces.
Guests can purchase select items from a catalogue Lisa has compiled of art and furnishings in the apartment.
As an avid traveller herself, Lisa says she wanted the apartment to be what she and her husband Wayne sought in accommodation – comfortable, aesthetically pleasing and equipped with all the little things guests might need to enjoy their stay.
This is reflected in many small details: the high-quality linen she chose for the bed, the thoughtful selection of books left for guests to enjoy, the leafy sanctuary that is the private courtyard, the well-stocked kitchen, and the beautiful design pieces, like lamps and ceramics, found in every room.
Lisa estimates the building to date back to around 1900 and appreciates that it has been “very sensitively renovated”.
The building’s colourful frontage, which spans the gallery frontage up to the first-floor apartment, distinguishes it from the neighbouring stores. The work is by Sydney artist Miguel Gonzales, also know as M-lon.
Lisa loves the sense of community in the East End and is proud to operate a business and reside in the area.
Lisa says that the Curve Art Apartment’s location within the ‘East End Arts Precinct’ – with contemporary arts space The Lock Up and fibre art gallery and store Timeless Textiles nearby – is a big drawcard for guests. As is its close proximity to the city, beach and harbour.
“It’s just a win. You can’t beat the location.”
Lisa believes many guests that stay at Curve Art Apartment are seeking a cultural experience and want to explore what Newcastle’s arts scene has to offer.
“More and more guests are coming from Sydney and Melbourne.”
Many guests are often visiting or taking part in local creative events, such as the recent This Is Not Art (TINA) and National Young Writers’ Festival (NYWF).
“We try to make their stay in Newcastle as special as we can,” Lisa says.
“I think that’s why the feedback’s been so great.”