Smaller crowds at art openings

Rhonda Dredge

Katy Beale is checking the ice and lining up the glasses for an opening at One Star Lounge and Gallery at Victoria St, West Melbourne.

It’s always nerve-wracking before an opening, waiting for people to arrive, and this is the first since October.

“I feel that people are a bit more reluctant this year,” Katy said.

But Katy and her partner, well-known musician Mick Harvey, are ready. “We’re allowed a capacity of 50 so we’re going ahead.”

The opening starts at 6pm. There’s complementary prosecco on arrival and some bowls of snacks to get the atmosphere working.

The turn-out is small but One Star is lucky. It is a window gallery that has maintained an artistic presence on the street during lockdown and kept up interest among local art lovers.

Just off Victoria St further down into North Melbourne, Gallerysmith is a more traditional “white box” and they’ve had to think about things they hadn’t thought about before.

The Abbotsford St location was ideal before the lockdown with maximum wall space for hanging work in a large warehouse.

“I wish I had a window,” said director, Marita Smith, reflecting on the kind of creative adaptions she had made during the past two years.

She’s kept in touch with clients by increasing her communication and doing more work online plus she runs exhibitions a little longer. “We’ll survive,” she said.

The current artist on show, Christopher Pease, couldn’t come to the show because he’s from Western Australia and would have to isolate for a week on return.

“He was devastated,” Marita said. “This is his third solo show. He’s not a prolific artist.”

An exhibition is the book end to a body of work, she said. “It’s a really important part of the practice. It allows an artist to view the body of work and engage with an audience then move onto the next series.”

Exhibitions are the mainstay of commercial galleries and are the best way for art lovers to get a feel for what is happening in the culture and to view recent work.

Commercial galleries such as Gallerysmith represent artists and engage with the art discourse. More casual art spaces such as One Star offer venue hire and the current exhibitor Abe Dunovits responded to an Instagram call-out.

Abe has drawn lovely little portraits of music industry figures on aluminium while Christopher has painted illustrations of colonial scenes and overlaid them with geometric commentaries about colonisation.

Marita makes a distinction between those who love art and those who love openings, but really, the two go together.

Gallerysmith’s next opening is on March 19 and Marita is keeping the number of visitors to a maximum of 20 by asking people to book into a time slot.

“It’s necessary for us to do that,” Marita said. “People are less comfortable in crowds.” •

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