All That Glitters: Melbourne's Pieces of Eight gallery

Relocating to a chic city hub in Melbourne, Pieces of Eight gallery blends opulence with industrial cool in its collection of unique jewellery and objects.

The dramatic steel and glass facade of Pieces of Eight’s new premises in Melbourne’s CBD provides an alluring proposition to passers-by; a fitting reflection of the gallery’s assured position within Melbourne’s contemporary jewellery and object space.

“My philosophy is to be bold and individual, to follow my instincts and not be afraid,” says gallery owner Melanie Katsalidis. This intuitive and elastic approach has served the trained gold and silversmith well.

In the five years since she first established Pieces of Eight, her gallery has grown to represent 52 artists, a diverse group that oscillates between the wild, whimsical pieces of jeweller Nina Oikawa to the refined elegance that characterises the works by resident jeweller David Parker.

When Melanie’s father Nonda Katsalidis, director of architecture firm Fender Katsalidis, told his daughter about a ground-floor retail premises available in an apartment complex his firm was designing in Russell Place, she jumped at the chance to take a space. She was then instrumental in the design of the exhibition area, office and artist-in-residence space above. 

“Pieces of Eight has become more high-end and about the one-off; I wanted to create an elegant space that would reflect that, with a ‘rough luxe’ feel,” she says. The interior is a glittering complement to the jewels within. Yellow light and the curtains of gold streamers in the iron facade provide a warm foil to the industrial chic of the exposed concrete. 

An oversized hand-shaped mirror, by local designer and artist Tim Fleming, leads the way to an intimate space enveloped in velvet curtains, designed for client commissions and decorated with Konstantin Grcic furniture and jewel-like lighting by Foscarini.

Despite its sleek environment, the presence of the maker remains an important part of the gallery’s identity. A window above the gallery provides glimpses into the artist-in-residence quarters. “I always want to keep an artist making on site, to have that connection and keep it real, as we did in our former gallery space in North Fitzroy,” Katsalidis explains.

New initiative Edition X, an online gallery with a physical presence within the old Pieces of Eight in Fitzroy, only strengthens that bond and keeps Katasalidis busier than ever. “I find it really energising,” she says. “It’s my personal passion.”

Pieces of Eight, 28 Russell Place, Melbourne Vic, (03) 9497 8121.

This story was first published in Vogue Living Jul/Aug 2011. Photos Ben Glezer.