Who is the general public?

Who is the general public?
Rhonda Dredge

The spirit of Marcel Duchamp is being honoured in a show at 99% gallery in the Nicholas Building called The General Public

The show honours the avant-garde movement which aimed to break down boundaries between “elite” galleries and everyday life.

The gallery sent an open call-out for exhibitors and on the first day 56 aspiring artists delivered work.

Curator and gallery director Chelsea Hopper wasn’t sure what to expect and was calling for anything from napkin doodles to caricatures and ready-mades.

“Being in an exhibition is a privilege for an artist,” she said. “If you open it up it can be anyone. It’s quite special and emotional despite how technically skilled you are.” 

She will hang all of the work in The General Public, document it and analyse it for her PhD.


She said the idea of an open exhibition had never been done before in Melbourne, but it had happened in New York. 


The New York exhibition last year was called The Patriot and there were more than 200 exhibits. 

“They had to call the police because too many people rocked up to the opening,” Hopper said.

She said the original idea came from the conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp who ran a similar exhibition in New York in 1917.

“You had to pay to get into the salon,” she said. “The work was hung alphabetically in a big group show.” 

The Melbourne show is free of charge. All you had to do was turn up with work under your arm at a specified time and you were in. 

First cab off the rank was a woman with a fantasy painting in a hand-made frame. Someone brought a bag of rocks, another some Cliff energy bars for rock climbing, another a photograph of their parents’ wedding. But by far the biggest group of exhibitors were painters.

“There’s an assumption about being an artist that you have a palette and beret,” Hopper said. “There is a lot of pink acrylic paint.”

The General Public, 99%, Nicholas Building, from November 26 until December 10. •


Caption: Chelsea Hooper with the first day’s collection of work.

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