On Black Friday eve in Hobart, people weren’t camping out in the cold for a chance at buying a big TV, they were lining up for a shot at buying artworks worth tens of thousands of dollars.
- Art lovers camped outside Salamanca’s Handmark Gallery to secure the latest batch of 21 paintings from artist Michael McWilliams
- Some pieces are valued at up to $45,000
- McWilliams is known for his paintings of Tasmanian landscapes and animals, often with strong conservation themes
Tasmanian artist Michael McWilliams was given a rockstar reception to his latest exhibition with people camping out overnight in order to secure one of his 21 paintings.
McWilliams trained to be an art teacher at the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, now the University of Tasmania.
He is known for drawing inspiration from the unique Tasmanian landscape and its native and introduced fauna and flora.
Fans of his work had started lining up outside Handmark Gallery at Salamanca Place the night before, and some even brought along leather recliners to keep themselves comfier than typical Black Friday shoppers.
The art lovers may have thought they were in with a bargain simply by having a chance to buy a McWilliams artwork, but there was nothing cheap about the paintings, which ranged from $1,700 to $45,000.
Justin Barber was first in line and had a 16-hour wait until the doors opened, with temperatures dropping to 7.1 degrees Celsius early this morning.
“I do quite a lot of trekking up in the plateau so I had the right gear to protect me and keep warm,” he said.
With a first in, best dressed system at play, Mr Barber was happy with his choice of artwork.
“Michael McWilliams, I think probably for me and I think for many of the people that were sitting here last night, would be considered one of Tasmania’s best living artists,” he said.
Steve Cameron was second in line and was waiting on behalf of a friend.
“I will get the one I want. Other people at the other end of the line will have less choice obviously,” he said.
Annabel Tyson joined the queue at 4:30am.
“I came down from Launceston and had time in a bed before I came here,” she said.
Given her position in the line, she accepted she would not get the artwork she wanted.
A painted cabinet that took five years to complete is being sold by expressions of interest.
Ms Tyson said she was a friend of the artist.
“Michael is very determined not to make his work unaffordable to people, he is reasonable,” she said.
“People seem to have the money, particularly with COVID and people not travelling.”
First in, best dressed means some miss out
Handmark Gallery director Allanah Dopson said the last exhibition by the artist three years ago saw queues forming in the early hours of the morning on the day of the opening.
She said she was “in shock” when people began arriving early yesterday afternoon.
“I think word spread and people realised if they wanted a wonderful Michael McWilliams painting then they better get down here.”
She said the first in, best dressed system seemed the only fair option.
“Three years ago when we had the last Michael show it was in person, online and email.”
“We found again people had been queuing from 3am and when they all worked out what piece they’re wanting you can hardly pick up the phone or look at an email so I guess we realised this was the only way we could do it.”
She said many people missed out.
“Unfortunately, yes, and I know some people have been here to queue and realised they have missed out so they’ve gone away or missed out on the one they wanted,” Ms Dopson said.
She said she could understand why Michael McWilliams has such a strong following.
“He has also got a wonderful conservation feel to his work.
“Although it’s beautiful to look at, it’s also telling a story about protecting our environment.”