UPTOWN: 24/7 outdoor art exhibition transforms the top of Bourke Street

UPTOWN: an art exhibition for our city transforms the top of Bourke Street into a 24/7 outdoor art gallery – a uniquely Melbourne experience that combines art, architecture, and streetscape by matching 26 contemporary artists with vacant shops, restaurants, store windows, building exteriors and laneways. Curated by Fiona Scanlan and Robert Buckingham, Uptown is supported by the City of Melbourne. At the top of Bourke Street, the free exhibition for all to see and be part of will launch on Tuesday 15 December and run non-stop until 28 February 2021.

UPTOWN, a summer treat for Melbourne’s people was created through an ambitious partnership between local businesses, property owners, the arts community, and 26 of Melbourne’s best contemporary artists. It is part of the City of Melbourne’s plan to rejuvenate the CBD and help Melburnians rediscover their city.

Fiona Scanlan and Robert Buckingham (Co-curators, uptown) said: “By [reimagining] the top of Bourke Street as an outdoor gallery, store windows, vacant shops, restaurants, laneways, and building exteriors become the setting for a new art experience; a free 24/7 art walkabout. We aimed to create a very public exhibition outside the traditional gallery environment and engage with the world; an art adventure that responds to the scale, history, colour, personalities, and architecture of the top of Bourke Street. UPTOWN is a very local, very spontaneous, very people-focused creative project designed to reflect this moment in time and the importance of friendship and relationships.”

Su san Cohn (artist) said: “UPTOWN brings art to the people, it celebrates artists, and in doing so, it reminds us of the special character of this city.”

Kent Morris (artist) commented: “My work, Never Alone, focuses on the First Nations cultural concept of the interconnectedness of all things – people, plants, animals, waterways, landforms, and celestial bodies. The work encourages a reflective response to our current state of existence and suggests that the incorporation of Indigenous philosophies, knowledges and relationships can reshape and navigate a connected pathway forward.”

Guy Grossi (restaurateur, Grossi Florentino) said: “What’s exciting about the UPTOWN exhibition is how it shows artists and local businesses working together and using their creativity to create something beautiful and meaningful for Melbourne.”

Destiny Deacon (artist) also added: “I’ve lived in Melbourne since I was a nipper and Melbourne’s been the background, visible or not, to virtually all of my work. Most of my models are Melbourne people or at least lived here long enough to pose for me. Most of the dolls come from local second-hand shops.”

UPTOWN exhibition highlights:

  • A huge 17 x nine-metre billboard of one of Bill Henson’s classic images of a woman floating above the city lights.
  • An installation by Peter Atkins celebrating the colour, glitz of tawdry glamour of 80s TV personalities and magazines in the window of Bourke Street’s fabled Mitty’s newsagent. Bert Newton will love it!
  • For the first time in 170 years, artists take over the windows of the legendary fabric store, Job Warehouse (1950-2012). Work by Elizabeth Newman, Janina Green, Su san Cohn, and Steve Rhall.
  • Archibald Prize-winning artist Louise Hearman’s paintings in the windows of Grossi Florentino and Cellar Bar reference the work of colonial artist Eugene von Guerard whose studio was nearby in the 1850s.
  • Eugenia Lim revisits Ron Robertson-Swan’s Vault sculpture’s controversy, the racist renaming of it “Yellow Peril,” and it’s 40-year exile from Melbourne’s CBD.
  • Laneway posters of Destiny Deacon’s artwork recreates the backyard setting of Destiny’s works and highlights her 30-year survey show at the NGV – that has been unseen due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Death in the Disco installation of costumes, mirror balls, and artwork by local performance artists.
  • The Huxleys in a vacant shop recreates a dystopian nightclub inhabited by Leigh Bowery and his ilk.
  • Kenny Pittock inserts fun word-play drawings in unexpected places around Bourke Street.
  • A community-based drawing on Bourke Street led by artist Kerrie Poliness and commissioned by ACCA as part of their “Who’s afraid of public space program” on Saturday 6 February.  

UPTOWN’s key supporter is the City of Melbourne. Local graphic designer, Projects of Imagination and lighting designer, bluebottle, and app developer ZOME have generously supported their services to the exhibition design. Other supports include ACCA, ACMI, MPavilion, Turning Circle Collective, Dexus, BMG, Plakkit, Printco, MECCA, L.U.Simon, CBRE, The O’Brien Group, and Hotel Windsor.

For further information, including program details soon to be released, please visit uptownartexhibition.com.au

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