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Art Gallery Bumpf

At James Makin Gallery the gallery attendant hands me a price list, a postcard and a folded card color catalogue, more bumpf. At Utopian Stumps I was handed a “room sheet” – a price list, in other words. I must say that I do use the price lists; I scribble my notes on them when looking at the exhibition as it saves me from copying down names of artists or titles of art works.

But now all this art gallery bumpf is building up in a pile in the corner of my office. It hangs like snowdrifts on my bookshelves. There is a massive pile in my intray, like a massive snowdrift of room sheets, catalogues, postcard invite, business cards, threatening an avalanche onto Dignity, the cat. I have resolved to clean it up. I take one at random from the pile; Dignity sensing imminent disaster leaves the room. The pile remains in place.

What is this A4 page about? It doesn’t even have the gallery name on it – that goes straight into the recycling bin.

There is so much of this art gallery bumpf. The ecological impact of this material is often ignored in considering the artist’s environmental footprint. My advice to artists and galleries is to save a forest and do it all electronically. Use Facebook and email invites, PDF catalogues, artist and gallery websites. PDF catalogues are in many ways superior to printed paper catalogues because they are economical, document the exhibition equally well, require less space to store and increases the difficulty of forgery (such as the forgeries retrospectively documented by additions to catalogues as in the case of John Drewe.) However, the archival value of PDFs have yet to be proved.

I sort through more of the pile. There are all these business cards; this one says – “artist and interior decorator” – that doesn’t sound good.

The tangible item of a gallery catalogue can be a beautiful publication in itself, a well written thought provoking essay about the artist and more images. Those ones go in the files or even on the bookshelf. I screw up another “room sheet” and get Dignity to chase the ball of paper under the coffee table.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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