Too Many Galleries

The lights are on in the gallery but nobody is there.

There are too many art spaces in Melbourne. I have raised this issue before (Rental Space Debate) and discussed how the quality of exhibitions suffers because exhibition spaces, especially the rental spaces, will accept any submission. I did not consider how many people visit galleries compared to the exhibition spaces.

When I go around looking at galleries I am often the only person in the gallery, apart from the person sitting the gallery. For anyone gallery sitting at an artist run initiative or rental gallery space it is apparent that there are not a lot of people visiting galleries – there were days when nobody visited 69 Smith St. or Brunswick Arts. Sure there are often hundreds of people at the opening but they are only there for event and the wine, some don’t even look at the art.

And there are still more galleries opening in Melbourne, about nine this year. This is not good for the artist or Melbourne’s arts as it reduces the number of visitors to the exhibition and dilutes the impact of any good exhibition. If only there was a similar growth in the total visitors, in art magazines or critical reviews of exhibitions then the situation might not be so unbalanced.

I started this blog because too few exhibitions in Melbourne are reviewed. There are so many galleries that I haven’t been able to visit all of them in two years. I can’t hope to review all of them – I can’t even hope to have seen the same exhibitions as anyone else. I am pleased to note that there is another blogger, Ace Wagstaff writing reviews of Melbourne’s art run initiatives (ARI) and other art exhibitions: Dead Hare.  So far Wagstaff and I have both written entries about the censorship of Trevor Finn and Cecilia Fogelberg’s exhibition at Platform. I hope that we write more entries on the same exhibitions, so that there is more than just one view to consider.

Lack of visitor numbers, sales or critical reviews do not matter to rental space galleries, including many of the ARI, as their only concern is bookings. These galleries are dishonest in not disclosing to artists booking the space the average number of visitor for a normal week.

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

6 responses to “Too Many Galleries

  • Robert Hughes

    Well , why dont you move to Geelong, Ballarat, Adelaide or somewhere else where your perception will change and you will see yourself as more important and actually worth reading
    Your choice to comment on Censorship, and refer to Flinn & Fogelbergs dreadfull show of Student quality art in the same breath, seemed to be aimed at the slightly controversial, getting on the bandwagon, and bothering to critique something that was actually as unsignificant as you really are yourself.

    Bill Buttfest

  • Ace Wagstaff

    Cheers for the post Mark.
    I have been AWOL for a little while as uni has been quite intense, but I only have another week before break and I am missing the local scene like hell! hope to see you around some time but until then keep blogging strong in my absence!

  • Happy

    it’s rather dull to state something so contentious as; there are too many galleries, without listing which galleries you think should close down. we want dirt.

    I don’t understand how promoting artists, however bad they might be, is a bad thing for anyone. surely artists do get better with practice, don’t they? what better way to practice than to have exhibitions?

    part of the art is the spectacle of the opening. without a doubt. part of the spectacle of the critic is to be contentious. to maintain a tension with the gallery scene without alienating himself from it. why not do something interesting and break that tension. or at least stretch it?

  • Amber

    Preparing a body of work for an exhibition is a huge journey on its own, some don’t make it, even if nothing is sold, what artists can learn from the experience is extremely valuable.

  • Sall

    Hey, here’s an idea… close down your beloved 696- that place is a piece of shit that will accept anyone with a pile of “artworks” under their arm… there’s no quality control in that laughable excuse for an “art space”.

  • artika haliyasmin

    not only the product but also the promotion. i think the gallery’s owner must know how to attract the visitor, by doing some promotions of the products, n think about the other way too,..

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