Tony Stephens

Tony has been working in the arts and cultural sector for over fifteen years and has significant experience providing leadership to organisations in the not-for-profit, commercial and government sectors. Tony hasn’t always worked in the cultural sector, commencing his working life as an apprentice plumber – going on to secure trade qualifications, work for several employers before starting a successful small construction company in Queensland. These formative experiences, combined with professional history and tertiary qualifications in Art History, makes him an extremely effective arts administrator.

This was clearly evidenced in his role as the Director of Grantpirrie, one of Australia’s leading commercial art galleries (2008-2012). As the Director, Tony was responsible for all aspects of the business; from developing and implementing policies and systems through to brand development and marketing; through to working with artists on exhibition programming and development.

As the Director of Artbank since 2012, Tony provides leadership and direction – ensuring the development and implementation of both the commercial and curatorial activities of the organisation.

Tony is a strong believer in the core objectives of Artbank (being support and promotion of the visual arts/artists) and is constantly exploring new ways to achieve them. Artbank, under Tony’s leadership, has seen substantial reinvigoration and change. The growth in the uptake of Artbank’s art leasing program is testament to Tony’s approach and provides an interesting insight into current and potential audiences for Australian visual art.

Tony’s career to date has been focused on creating sustainable career paths for artists through a rethinking of how to encourage participation in the visual arts by the broader Australian public. Through a constant reinterrogation of standing norms, Tony’s work ultimately seeks to contemporise thinking around the role of the visual arts in Australia – shrinking the distance between the maker and the audience – dispelling ideas of elitism and exclusivity that can sometimes be associated with the visual arts. To this end, Tony is constantly focused on reinvigorating, growing capacity and redefining organisational approach, direction and position to ensure ongoing relevance.