Wednesday, October 17, 2007

To What Is this Gallery Exposing Us?

On Friday, October 12, as another woman and I were walking to the video store after 8 pm, we noticed a lot of men with drinks in their hands milling around on the street. Turns out it was the opening of a new exhibit of photographs at the Exposure Gallery. In keeping with the name of the gallery, the exhibit was called Nude. When you entered the gallery and turned left you saw a torso shot of a nude black man with his penis pointed towards the door. That was as nude as it got. Aside from a fairly striking print of a head-shot that was being raffled off (a donation by a famous New York artist), most of the printing was a tad less than crisp, and most of the shots were a lot shy of imaginative. Only a few were, to my mind even evocative or energetic. Though, to be fair, I am old and have seen it all before (and better).

It set my teeth on edge when I first noticed last month that this art gallery was moving into 754 East Broadway. Galleries are notoriously the stalking horses for gentrification of neighbourhoods the wealthy dub "dangerous." From what I've seen so far in life, once the rich culture-stalkers start coming and they don't get shot, they start looking around for what they can buy up and "improve" (i.e., control).

According to an article in the Courier, Exposure Gallery has moved here after 18 years on Beatty Street in Yaletown - an area that has notoriously gentrified over that period of time (not, to be fair, that there is any proof that this gallery caused the gentrification). The Yaletown location was also prone to shootings back then. The late founder of Exposure was president of a nonprofit that worked with the city "to establish safe live-work studios for artists in old warehouses," with galleries open to the public on ground level. Exposure was only paying $700 a month when their lease ran out this year, and a beauty salon edged them out with a bid to pay $1900 a month. The article doesn't say what Exposure is paying at the Broadway location, but mentions that they have a lease for 5 years. In an area where storefront operations tend to come and go quickly, that could make them one of the most stable businesses around.

Exposure gallery is actually volunteer-run by the Vancouver Association for Photographic Arts, a nonprofit membership organization for community photographers. Members pay $95 a year to join {$55 for students), and $40 for every shot they enter in a show. If they sell a picture (according to the Courier) they pay the gallery no commission. So, you could call Exposure a starter gallery for budding photographers, or you could call it a vanity gallery for eager amateurs. But in any case, it must be true that the curatorial judgment is subordinate to the self-selected pool of entrants and the self-interest of those who pay the bills.

This was only the first show I've seen there, so I can't really say that there won't be works of genius on the walls in future. And, to be fair, my view was rather jaundiced by my views on galleries as harbingers of gentrification doom, and by seeing a shiny new car replete with two over-coiffed lapdogs parked out front (now that would have made a photo). Most of the celebrants at the opening actually looked not terribly wealthy - maybe $25 an hour city outdoor workers fresh from printing photographs while they were out on strike? They seemed to be having a high time, lubricated by wine, so perhaps there's a rationale after all for calling it high art?

November 5 is the next deadline for submissions, and Friday, November 9 is the next opening.

1 comment:

  1. The next show was much better. A new one is about to open, too.