Peter Beiers, Gallery Store manager, QAGOMA
Books are the lifeblood of art. They are essential and enrich our lives ...
Anyone who has ventured to the Queensland Art Gallery or Gallery of Modern Art has at least passed an interested glance over the goods in the gallery stores. Stunning books, curious oddities and various artistic paraphernalia line the shelves of stores inside QAG and GOMA. The job of curating the various exhibition accompaniments and other engrossing reads falls to the Gallery Store manager, a role filled ably by Peter Beiers. Peter is responsible for sourcing and selecting the beautiful products up for sale in the stores, which means he has a sharp eye for engaging content and a strong aesthetic style. We decided to have a chat to Peter about his job as manager and curator of both gallery stores and how books can enhance exhibition and art in general.
To start, I’d love to know how you got into the business of book buying – namely what spurred your interest in that realm to begin with?
Like everything in my life I fell into it without any realisation. Fate? Stumbling through life in a shambolic way – is that an Aries trait?
What does the role of Gallery Store Manager entail?
Firstly manager is a word that I find difficult to accept – I can’t even manage my own life, let alone anyone else. My co-manager and staff do all the work, I just bask in the glory. As for what I do? Mmm flirting, charming, seducing – you know, the difficult and important things. And a little stock ordering.
How do you go about selecting what is sold at the store? What do you look for in a product to make sure it’s an engaging and shelf worthy item?
I owe a debt to some very important friends and customers who have helped hone my aesthetic, which guides my every decision. They know who they are and I am forever grateful. Add to that my co-workers, whose input I trust implicitly. Inherently it is the collective decision making process drawing on all the people I value and admire.
In your opinion, what can an accompanying book to do bolster an appreciation for an artwork or exhibition at the Gallery?
Books are the lifeblood of art. They are essential and enrich our lives. Not only can they capture the essence of an exhibition for posterity, they are a great source of information about an artist or art movement. An added bonus is that books make you live longer. Forget mindfulness, just read – it’s better stress relief.
What does buying for and operating the Gallery’s stores afford you in terms of the products you can stock as opposed to a regular book/gift store?
We’re very fortunate to be able to stock an amazing selection of obscure art titles, art merchandise and limited edition books. The amazing thing is when I order a book that is so arcane I think nobody could possibly have the courage to buy it – it sells. Brisbane is filled with the most interesting, intelligent, motivated and enthusiastic people. I know this is the case because I see them on a daily basis.
You have a sharp sense of style, especially when it comes to your own appearance. Do you extend your unique flair to the store as well? If so, how does it show?
My belief in contemporary art, photography, architecture and design is not just confined to my job. It permeates all aspects of my life, and is evident in everything I do. The way I present myself, what I buy, what I surround myself with, it’s all part of the same thing. An appreciation for good design and aesthetic values is something I hope is evident in the book and product mix across all of our Stores.
What are a few books or products in store now that you think are must own items?
The new book on Marcel Broodthaers from the MoMA exhibition is a must own, as it celebrates – in my opinion – one of the greatest (and most underrated) artists of the 20th century. Another new book is by young Cuban artist Oscar Murillo. Titled Frequencies it chronicles his praxis in which he fixed blank canvases to the desks of school children in 20 countries around the world and the results are inspiring and fascinating. One of my favourite objects in our store is Wonderoud, a luxuriously seductive unisex fragrance by Comme des Garçons. I like mysterious, alluring fragrances. Trust me, they work.
What is your favourite book or publication that you own that you treasure and constantly re-read?
This is difficult question for me as there are many. Firstly there is an artist’s book by Sean Phillips which has tremendous sentimental and aesthetic value to me, a constant reminder of a huge hole in my life through the loss of a loved one. Dostoyevsky’s Notes From the Underground always challenges me. The Illiad and Odyssey (Fagel translations) are a constant friend and John Berryman’s Dream Songs and Emily Dickinson’s Complete Poems never leave my bedside. I can’t leave out Bruce Weber’s O Rio de Janeiro – it always reminds me to keep in shape! Beckett’s How It Is had a profound effect on me. The book was so bleak, so unrelenting in its portrayal of life’s absurdity that it left me physically flattened. I remember reading it on the bus one time and I fell asleep, dropped the book and completely embarrassed myself. What made it worse is that I couldn’t recognise where I was up to (it is very repetitive) so I had to start from the beginning. A catastrophe let me tell you!
What are your thoughts on Brisbane growing as a cultural city? Do you think there is plenty to engage with outside of QAGOMA?
It is important not to confuse the culture industry and actual expression of culture. Culture comes from activity and interaction. Brisbane has always, and continues to have pockets of cultural brilliance for which we should be forever proud and thankful. Brisbane, like everywhere, has always had a culture to be discovered, celebrated, ignored, documented, annihilated and struggled with. We live in a wondrous city, made all the more interesting due to its imperfections – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The more you succumb to Brisbane the more it will open up for you.
What has been inspiring you lately?
Ronda Rousey, as she has made being strong so sexy. Kumiko Inui, her architecture is one to watch. Mike Brodie’s photographs, a kind of modern day Jack Kerouac with a camera. Freight hopping across America with a found camera from 2003 – 2006 he produced a body of work which is phenomenal. Subsequently he gave up photography to become a mechanic! Thomas Bernhard, his style is incomparable. Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons), she has remained at the top of her game for over 30 years, and still seduces me to buy her clothes!