As part of the exhibition agreement with Upstairs Gallery exhibitors must man the exhibition for two shifts, Sunday the 10th was my first shift. Due to Mothers day the gallery was busy with families in after lunch at the cafe below and a visit to Barry Brickle and Billy Apple next door at Te Uru.
I took this as a chance to watch the public interacting with my and my exhibition peers work. I chose not to divulge my identity and assumed two different roles. Not Me: the attendant who knew not much about the exhibition and would just provide a greeting and the catalogue, and Not Not-Me: a gallery attendant who had spent some time talking to the artists and knew about the work.
Firstly I quickly came to realise the absence of wall text, although there are statements in the catalogue no text is shown on the walls with the work and although this makes the walls clear and uncluttered it can create a barrier to understanding the work, especially as my work can be quite reliant on its accompanying text. Not Me would sometimes offer a catalogue to visitors which was then read, usually quite briefly although it tended to increase the amount of time viewers spent with the work and often it was enough to make the viewers engage with the work, especially with Pilfered where it’s hinted that the work can be stolen and some of the collection has emotive or humorous elements.
Not Not-Me would actively engage the visitors on a walk around the room and a quick chat about some of the elements in the works not giving everything away but pointing out what each artist was interested in or what ideas they were interested in in the work, here was tricky territory as I didn’t want to give away too much information so mainly kept to the themes written in the catalogue but could point out things that Not Not-Me recognised in the paintings or things divulged in conversations with the artists.
There was so much more engagement in the work when text or conversation was offered than when it was not. Most of the viewers were general public and seemed happy enough to take a quick look around before heading off and those who were engaged in the art world usually showed it as they looked for text or approached the attendant on entry to the gallery.
Most pleasing to me where those who took quick furtive glances at me while slipping prints from Pilfered into pockets and bags, unsure of whether they were allowed to take the ones they wanted. Interestingly the cards I thought would be the most popular haven’t been, although all the cards have had some taken the most popular has been the lampshade, it seems the emotional qualities of the work, have a pull to the viewers.
As one elderly lady commented “I’m glad she took that, it should have been hers anyway”.