About West End Art Space and Anna Prifti

May 9, 2023

“I believe that all artists have a vision to leave something behind. The very function or existence of art is to inspire and to leave a legacy. That’s why I think my work as an art restorer cannot be separated from my work as a gallery owner and contemporary artist.”

Athens-born Anna Prifti started her career as a conservator of priceless mural paintings in churches across Europe. In 2000, she was invited to restore the artwork inside St Catherine’s, a Greek Orthodox church in East Malvern.

Drawn to the Melbourne art scene, Anna decided to move permanently to Australia. In her new home town, she hoped to fulfil her lifelong dream of opening her own art gallery.

“In 2016 when the West End precinct was being developed, I saw an opportunity for my dream to be realised. The developers worked with me to create West End Art Space, a unique hybrid between a commercial and community gallery.  The gallery is part of a residential building foyer – as residents enter and leave the building they can see a different show every three or four weeks. It’s amazing for kids growing up in the apartments above to be exposed to art in such a way.”

At West End Art Space, Anna curates contemporary art pieces in a dynamic exhibition program that features living artists. The focus is primarily on abstract art by Australian and international artists, whether that’s in the form of sculpture, painting, photography or installations.

West End Art Space offers a year-round exhibition program, with twelve to thirteen shows a year. All art is available for sale.

“We will call out for applications once every two years and we receive a lot of applications,” explains Anna. “There’s a long list of artists waiting to exhibit, plus we represent our own stable of around thirty-five artists who are primarily local, with a few international artists.”

Some of the artists that have exhibited at West End Art Space include Fran O’Neill, Cliff Burtt, Monique Lacey and Lev Khesin. Anna also works with an indigenous centre in Gunana, Mornington Island and represents the indigenous artists there, including the children of Sally Gabori.

“Seventy per cent of the artists that we represent are women. I do that on purpose as seventy per cent of students graduating out of art schools are women, thirty per cent are men. All the men get representation, but only ten per cent of women get representation in galleries. When I set out to open the gallery, I wanted to turn it around and focus on a business model that primarily shows living women artists.”

To further her vision, Anna is also the curator of an abstract art Biennale celebrating female artists from Victoria.

“Every two years I curate a show with current works by women from Victoria. In the next one we will have around thirty-five artists exhibiting.”

Anna believes that her two passions for art restoration and contemporary art are united in meaning.

“Both this gallery and the restoration work are about helping artists to explore what is a meaningful existence, to leave something behind and to create a place for tradition, history, arts, and culture.

“What I love about my restoration work is its spirituality. It improves my well-being, nurtures my soul and it gives new life to someone’s legacy. In the gallery I deal with living artists and try to live up to their aspirations and support them.”

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