Galleries want to be able to run as a business. The public want a gallery with a consistent style and quality of exhibitions. And artists want a gallery to be a dynamic place that will represent them. A really good gallery will do all three. Christine Abrahams Gallery, one of Melbourne’s most established commercial galleries, is advertising to employ a new director to work with gallery owner and director, Guy Abrahams. But this blog entry, typical of my interests, is not about one of Melbourne’s established galleries, rather it is about a small, alternative gallery.
696 specialize in street art, graphic art and illustration. There is a small rental space gallery at the back of the shop is excellent for graphic arts and a courtyard, the Yard, for other events, weather permitting. I haven’t seen the Yard yet, but Paul, a regular at many gallery openings, has raved to me about it. But 696 is more than just a rental space gallery. It is a shop/gallery, selling t-shirts, badges, books, magazines, spray paint etc.; a good business model for a small gallery.
It is a dynamic gallery; there are events almost every week. Toby and Melika, who run 696, are hard-working women who are enthusiastic about the artists that they represent. And they are able to represent artists, in a small way, because they have a small stock room. Their email newsletter is informative with more content than just the next exhibition opening. They promote the artists that they represent even if they are exhibiting in another gallery. They ran a stall at the Sydney Road Street Party; they are very active and involved.
Outside the sidewall of 696 has a large street art mural by about 18 artists: Que, Meggs, Vocal, Pierre, Love Ariel, Ears, Seldom, Nicole, Satta, Sicks One, Deam, I Like Things, Scale, Pep, Scotty & Happy. It is a tight collaboration with each artist‘s style and images carefully worked into the overall composition. The panels in the windows change every month or so, the current ones up are done by Mr Cornish and Rachee Renee. Further down the alleyway Pav has done an enormous and subtle tromp l’oeil paste-up of an alleyway with signs, posters and graffiti. Enormous and subtle is a rather impressive achievement.
What makes it an exciting place is that artists meet there, dropping off art or just dropping in, making it a dynamic place. Pierre Lloga has had two exhibitions at the gallery in the last year. I met Jon Beinart there by accident; prior to that I had exchanged a few emails with him when I mentioned him in my blog. Pav Arts described it as the “696 community” in a recent email to me. Toby and Melika have created more than a small shop/gallery.