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.