The Dolls House

The Dolls House is a not-for-profit gallery space at 110 Miller Street in West Preston run by Isabel Nina Young, a screen printer and surface designer. The gallery is in a dollhouse in the window of a shop in the little local shopping strip where the tram turns from Miller Street into Gilbert Road. It features site-specific installations and is open all hours.

The sturdy wooden dolls house has a pitched roof and a single chimney. It is quartered into four rooms, two upstairs and two downstairs. It is the second smallest gallery space in Melbourne, after Mailbox Art Space at 141 Flinders Lane. More reasons to think small. It started in 2004, a small project that is sustainable over a long duration.

I meant to write about The Dolls House many years ago and was surprised to see that it is still going. When I visited, it was populated by a multitude of tiny dolls. Well, they were called dolls, cubes and balls of different colours. They were dolls abstracted to geometrics; modernist, logical, and fun. And there was a multitude of them, an absurd status for handcrafted sculpture.

It is an untitled exhibition by Aphra Nolan. Made from bake clay last year in response to a turbulent time in her life. The combination of the idea of dolls and modernism appealed to me. Dolls/puppets have been part of modern art since Höch, Tauber and Hennings made them in Zurich and Berlin Dada.

The site-specific aspect of exhibition at The Dolls House is a unique aspect of this gallery. Not always dolls or miniatures; over the years, there have been small sculptural works, photography, even a local history exhibition when Bell Primary School turned 80.

My only problem has been the difficulty of finding information about the exhibition. Although I don’t expect a shopfront gallery space to have an online media manager. I hope to write more about other shopfront art gallery spaces in Melbourne’s north, as I know some more in the windows of architects and sculptors’ studios. And all these little spaces, like Nolan’s dolls, add up in the chaos of Melbourne’s art world.

Aphra Nolan, untitled dolls

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

3 responses to “The Dolls House

  • The Architect’s Shopfront | Black Mark

    […] Alternate exhibition spaces in shopfront windows support local artists and culture. Businesses should look at what they do for the local community, not just their clients but also the people who have to walk past it or wait for a tram in front of it. For example, Shopfront-342 started as a way to engage local children on their school walk. Further along, the tramline is another shopfront art gallery, Dolls House. […]

  • Oliver Mayo

    A generous and thoughtful review. Thanks.

    • Mark Holsworth

      You’re welcome. I had a draft before I found out the name and age of the artist. My initial reaction to the work was positive and on reflexion I could see nothing wrong with the art. Cheers.

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