On the 7th of September Galerie Gabriel Rolt opened the exhibition of portraits by the very talented painter Dawn Mellor in which she depicts former members of now defunct not-for-profit collective The Austerians. This is the second solo exhibition at the gallery following “The Conspirators” in 2010. The Manchester-born Mellor is the oldest female artist never to have participated in a group exhibition, nationally or internationally at galleries, museums and public institutions in Europe and the USA or to have collaborated with curators or artists in various media.
Subjects for the British painter in het portraits, The Austerians, were a group of art industry professionals that formed their eponymous not-for-profit collective in protest of the rise of service industry jobs within which they found themselves self-employed after graduating from American and European colleges in the late 2000s. Operating on the fringes of politics, fashion and conceptualism the group was a short lived but influential team of curators, historians, gallerists and directors funded by charity donations, studio rents and works donated by emerging and under-represented artists.
Mellor infiltrated the group in 2006 posing as an intern whilst preparing for a special exhibition version of the documentary TV programme “The Secret Billionaire” where wealthy benefactors say goodbye to their luxury lifestyles and go undercover in deprived areas to find out who needs their help. The resulting portraits are based on photographs of other members taken with a hidden camera during her four years internship.
Mellor’s paintings depict the group in frontal portraits wearing their trademark famous Edwardian maid uniforms. The origins of their use of the maid uniform are unclear but art historian and founder member Hattie McDaniel suggested “as many members worked downstairs or in small converted cupboards, attics and back rooms separated from the main gallery space we adopted the elegant dress of servants as a form of mute visual protest that the art in the gallery was getting more attention”. Some customised their uniforms such as curator Mia Farrow who collaborated with milliners and fashion designers whilst others abandoned the white collars completely. Art critic Glenn Close wore a butlers uniform leading to the revival of the boyfriend jacket. The fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld celebrated the group for Chanel with his collection “Next Year at Marienbad” which included several former members on his catwalk show at the Grand Palais in 2009.
Make sure to catch the fascinating work of Mellor in it’s last weeks until the 12th of October!
The Galerie Gabriel Rolt is located at the Elandsgracht 34, opened Wednesday until Saturday from 12:00 to 18:00.