A FRIEND once likened my opening of a gallery in an inner city suburb of Melbourne as being a bit like the wholesale import of culture into the area. Given that he is an urban planner, I thought about the remark somewhat. The said suburb already had a reasonably well developed cultural scene, but I think the particular stretch of the high street I opened was regrettably a bit like the no-man's-land my old tennis coach used to warn me about steering clear of on the court.
But we live and we learn, but the high cost of rent in the world's major cities dictates.
I live in, let's say, an economically challenged area of Rome, many of whose inhabitants are not known for their sophistication.
I particularly hate a lot of the people in the neighbour hood if you want me to be honest.
Last night, a new nominee for my Dislike campaign received my vote; the woman who lives on the third floor in the building opposite mine. She routinely clears her table each night, and bats her tablecloth out of her window, letting the debris (including paper serviettes) simply fall to the street (our street) below. She watched with the kind of detatched fascination that most people watch snow falling as the grubby bits of paper simply floated down onto the street.
These two analagies came to mind when I got to thinking about one of the things that I actually do appreciate about my area. The Wunderkammern, a groovy little artspace that opened on the otherside of the tracks, about a five minute walk from my place.
I've seen a few interesting shows there; not an easy feat in a space that has very limited opening hours; but increasingly, I am growing to love the approach and the program that seems to be unfolding.
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In the past when I have visited the space, the thing that was eerily familiar to me, was how little frequented the place was. A good opening night can bring in the temporary crowds, and help establish your venue as being part of the social circuit, but having people visit outside of those three or four hours of hype can be more rewarding, because as a gallerist or curator, you get the chance to connect with the audience, to help articulate the artist's vision, as well as the opportunity to lap up the reaction to the artwork on show. This is an immensely important element of staging a show; just as important as deciding on how to install, lay out and promote a show is the opportunity to assess how it has been received.
Anyway, last week I tried to get to the opening of the latest exhibition at my little Wunderkammern (students of art theory will immediately get the little in joke of the place's name), and lo and behold, my personal little local space was OVERTHROWN with visitors. There was a line snaking around the corner of the block to see the Living Layers exhibit by renowned artist Mark Jenkins.
I hopped back on my scooter and went off into the night, a little peeved that I would have had to queue to get into my space, but honestly chuffed for the space, that the opening was going so well. Then I got to thinking about why it was doing so well all of a sudden.
Previous exhibitions haven't had the benefit of many marquee names. I remember I first discovered the space by way of a residency program that Space Invader was carrying out there, and an associated exhibition brought me out to the space, but since then, the exhibitions have been fun, thoughtful, but devoid of any big name drawcards.
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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