Moving to higher ground

Posted on May 2, 2010

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Utopian Slumps in Collingwood. Photo taken from Utopian Slumps.

‘The Slumps’ is moving up in the world. No more smelly rodent-infested back alley, smoker-packed balcony or sweaty-arm-pit art-gazing. This might be a drastic change for the Slumps, but don’t worry —the art is staying—it’s just going to be a bit classier. Melissa Loughnan, the young curator-turned-gallery owner of not-for-profit Utopian Slumps, has had three years of sell-out shows in her Collingwood space, but a shortage of public funding has made it tough. At 24, Loughnan opened the gallery as a space to show the occasional exhibition featuring experimental and emerging artists. It took off massively , and over its three years clocked up many firsts: Conor O’Brien‘s first solo show, Brendan Huntley’s first paintings, Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s first head-hitting burning saxophone. But Loughnan felt that it was “time to get a little more professional and to grow up a little bit”, and so the Utopian ideal slump has sparked a new venture into commercial art.

Founding Director of Utopian Slumps, Melissa Loughnan. Photo taken from The Age.

Okay, so ‘commercialism’ isn’t exactly a euphoria-inducing word for those trying to make it in the big-bad-art-world. Loughnan’s motives, however, are all in good order. She’ll be representing nine artists as part of the ‘commercial’ side of the new Slumps: Steven Asquith, Starlie Geikie, Nathan Gray, Misha Hollenbach, William MacKinnon, Dylan Martorell, Mark Rodda, Jake Walker and Amber Wallis. The aim is to work long-term and closely with each artist rather than doing the mere one-off show. The not-for-profit side of the Slumps will be renamed USSR (Utopian Slumps Second Round), and will function as the new gallery’s charitable outlet. In Loughnan’s words, this is “a way to continue giving back to the Melbourne art community”— a very noble gesture indeed.

Territorial Pissings opening at new CBD location at 33 Guildford Lane.

The shiny new space will be located at 33 Guildford Lane, Melbourne, and the inaugural appropriately-named show Territorial Pissings, including works by Amber Wallis, Nathan Gray and Jake Walker, will open on April 15. “The exhibition is about mark making, making a mark on the new gallery space, or marking its new territory. The theme of the opening show also references the Nirvana song of the same name, with all its glib inferences and grunge associations”, says Loughnan.
The new space is larger and somewhat grander than the Slumps’ old Collingwood haunt, situated on the ground floor of a three-level red-brick late 1800s building. Concrete will replace the previously vinyl floors, and heritage beams the timber ceiling. The main gallery will be more along the lines of the traditional white cube than its predecessor, and a cobble-stoned lane should prove very fitting for keeping up its patrons old drinking and smoking habits. “Ultimately the new space will be a slightly more grown up version of the old, with a view to its longevity”, says Loughnan. Not too shabby at all. Bring on Utopia!

By Marie Christodulaki

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