On Black Friday night in Hobart, people weren’t camping out in the cold for a chance to buy a big-screen TV, but instead lined up for a chance to buy works of art worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Most important points:
- Art lovers camped outside Salamanca’s Handmark Gallery to get their hands on the latest batch of 21 paintings by artist Michael McWilliams
- Some pieces are worth up to $45,000
- McWilliams is known for his paintings of Tasmanian landscapes and animals, often with strong conservation themes
Tasmanian artist Michael McWilliams got a rockstar reception for his latest exhibition featuring people camping overnight to secure one of his 21 paintings.
McWilliams trained as an art teacher at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, now the University of Tasmania.
He is known for his inspiration from the unique Tasmanian landscape and its native and introduced fauna and flora.
Fans of his work had lined up in front of the Handmark Gallery on Salamanca Place the night before, and some had even brought leather armchairs to feel more comfortable than the typical Black Friday shoppers.
The art aficionados may have thought they had struck a bargain by simply getting the chance to purchase a McWilliams artwork, but there was nothing cheap about the paintings, which ranged from $1,700 to $45,000.
Justin Barber was first in line and had to wait 16 hours for the doors to open, with temperatures dropping to 7.1 degrees Celsius early this morning.
“I do quite a bit of trekking on the plateau, so I had the right gear to protect me and keep me warm,” he said.
With a first-in, best-dressed system in play, Mr. Barber was happy with his choice of artwork.
“Michael McWilliams, probably to me and I think to many of the people sitting here last night would be considered one of Tasmania’s best living artists,” he said.
Steve Cameron was second in line, waiting on behalf of a friend.
“I’ll get the one I want. Other people on the other end of the line will of course have less choice,” he said.
Annabel Tyson joined the queue at 4:30 AM.
“I was from Launceston and had time in a bed before coming here,” she said.
Given her position in line, she accepted that she wouldn’t get the artwork she wanted.
A painted cabinet that took five years to complete is being sold by expression of interest.
Mrs. Tyson said she was a friend of the artist.
“Michael is determined not to make his work unaffordable for people, he is reasonable,” she said.
“People seem to have the money, especially with COVID and people not traveling.”
First in, best dressed means missing something
Handmark Gallery director Allanah Dopson said the artist’s last exhibition three years ago saw queues form in the early morning hours on the day of its opening.
She said she was “in shock” when people arrived early yesterday afternoon.
“I think the word spread and people realized that if they wanted a beautiful Michael McWilliams painting, they’d better go here.”
She said the first-in, best-dressed system seemed the only fair option.
“Three years ago, when we had the last Michael show, it was in person, online and by email.”
“We found again that people were queuing up from 3am and when they all knew what piece they wanted you can barely answer the phone or check an email so I think we realized this is the only way we could do it.”
She said many people missed it.
“Unfortunately, yes, and I know some people have lined up here and realized they missed something, so they either left or missed the one they wanted,” Ms Dopson said.
She said she could understand why Michael McWilliams has such a strong following.
“He also has a wonderful sense of conservation in his work.
“While it’s beautiful to look at, it also tells a story about protecting our environment.”