Updated: Sep 14, 2021
Trader in the Spotlight: Gallery Elysium
440-444 Burwood Road
Describing himself as more of a caretaker than businessman, Elio Sanciolo’s “driving force” at Gallery Elysium is “access to the arts for the community”.
Elio migrated from Sicily to Melbourne with his family when he was five, when the Australian government was encouraging Italian migration in the 1960s. His earliest memories are of his father painting, who Elio jokingly blames for passing on his “addiction” to art to him and his brother Bart.
Growing up in the northern suburbs, Elio attended Moreland Primary and High Schools. Despite being discouraged from pursuing further education in the arts, Elio went on to complete an arts degree at RMIT and postgraduate diploma in education at Mercy Teaching College. He worked as an arts teacher at Santa Maria College for 15 years before being approached by Xavier College where he taught for 25 years, painting all the while. “I really believe if you are teaching in the arts, you have an obligation to maintain your practice.”
While caring for his sick mother in 2018, Elio suffered a total back failure requiring major spinal surgery. “The chance I might never walk again really sharpened my view on life and how precious it is.” Elio took a year’s leave and began seriously reconsidering what he wanted out of his life. His wife, Teresa, suggested he fulfil his passion for art full-time. By the time Elio was waking up from surgery, Teresa had found the perfect space on Burwood Road - ironically, a former ergonomic chair store named ‘Bad Backs’.
In June 2019, Elio opened Gallery Elysium with the assistance of his brother Bart and in collaboration with his sister Maria. The gallery offers public exhibitions and features a private studio space. Also available through the gallery are private art classes and courses, curated tours to Italy, and sometimes free art history lectures for the local community. The venue space can be hired for events where the artworks are showcased on their moveable walls.
Elio lives in Fitzroy and spends his days at the gallery in Hawthorn before working most evenings at his dojo in Altona which he opened in 2014. He finds martial and creative arts to similarly contribute to something greater than themselves, a holistic philosophy Elio maintains in his personal and professional life.
Between the gallery on Burwood Road and decades at Xavier on Barkers Road, Elio “know[s] all the cafes and lunch spots down Glenferrie Road very well”. Missing former favourites Picasso’s and Mario’s, Elio now opts for the “great dumplings” at Tao Tao House, “best Japanese” at Zen, and “beautiful rooftop” of Santoni Pizza & Bar, while taking full advantage of local art store, Eckersley’s Art & Craft.
While Glenferrie Road is a “very lively area”, Elio finds the lack of traders along Burwood Road stretch a “pity” and looks forward to the reopening of The Hawthorn Hotel. He is extremely critical of council’s “huge lack of understanding” about the necessity for trader parking, arguing it would not have been viable to sign his lease on Burwood Road without the ability to park at his friend’s nearby private property.
With Gallery Elysium, Elio strives to shift the typical purpose of a commercial gallery as a place not just to buy paintings, but for the community to experience and connect with art and artists.
“I love people walking in, especially when they’re not buying, because it means they’re genuinely interested in what’s on the wall,” said Elio, inviting all those who might walk past every day to feel welcome to come inside.
“If people are engaging with the art, observing, discussing, hating, loving it - that’s the whole purpose.”