Galerie Gabriel Rolt is pleased to present an exhibition of new portraits by Dawn Mellor of members of the former collective The Austerians. This is Mellor's second solo exhibition at the gallery following "The Conspirators" in 2010. Mellor is the oldest female artist never to have participated in a group exhibition nationally or internationally at many galleries, museums and public institutions in Europe, America and Scandinavia or to have collaborated with curators or artists in various media.
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 noughties. 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 for which the press labeled them 'Teddy Hoes', a name they later satirised with their exclusive annual libertine VIP "Hoe Down" nude fundraising parties. 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 butler’s 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.
Also shown here are a series of small paintings entitled "The Final Hoe Down" depicting one of the notorious exclusive Austerian fundraising parties that Mellor attended. Painted entirely from memory the scenes depict the scandalous party that involved arson, the death of museum director Judith Anderson, the expulsion of magazine editor Billie Whitelaw and temporary disappearance of McDaniel from the art community and the eventual disintegration of the group. All previous members have refused to discuss the events that occurred that night when the museum burned down destroying the entire retrospective of appropriation artist Dame Maggie Smith which was painstakingly reproduced last month by a team of assistants. Smith's remade work "sex troll dolls" will be shown alongside Mellor's in the one night only two person show "The Shirley Temple Effect" for the finissage party event in celebration of the collective. Mellor's short film "On the good ship lolly " which documents the group's annual summer boating holidays at the Fantasy Island theme park will be screened at various film festivals in 2014.