For the past 20 years, Metro Gallery has been a constant on High Street. Launched during the strip’s peak status as an arts precinct, before bridal stores and designer boutiques began opening their doors in earnest, Metro was one of a number of commercial galleries.

“At the time, High Street was known as a gallery strip – every second shop was a gallery!” says Rebecca Sheahan, Metro’s gallery manager. “It was the premier location.”

These days, just a handful remain, but the light, industrial chic-inspired space at number 1214 has stood firm. Metro made its name bringing contemporary art to Melbournians and has a stable of 20 artists. Almost from its inception, the focus has been on showcasing Australian works, but overseas artists have also been featured on occasion.

“It’s a real mix,” says Rebecca. “We have art from well-established Australian artists such as, say, John Olsen, to mid-career artists and we’re supporting emerging artists as well. We have had some quite well-known international artists exhibit with us as well.”

There’s a rotation process in place for Metro’s regular artists – because, in Rebecca’s words, “obviously it takes a while to produce an exhibition” – with most having a solo show every second year. In the meantime, group shows provide a chance to share pieces from up-and-coming or lesser known artists, and can be an opportunity to “test drive” new styles.

“All of our artists draw in different clientele. You’re constantly dealing with fresh faces and living in an environment that’s constantly changing,” says Rebecca. “From the art on the walls to the people you’re working with. You’re not walking into the same office every day, so that’s exciting.”

Metro has several exhibitions opening over the winter months. For the first two weeks of June, a solo exhibit by Richmond-based artist Tom Adair brings the neon lights and sultry warmth of Miami to the gallery. Inspired by his recent visit to the Florida city and his long-held interest in street art and culture, Miami Vibes features a series of paintings characterised by dotted rendering and violet hues,juxtaposing the city’s affluence with its grittier underbelly.

“Then we have the ‘Metro Winter Show’ starting Tuesday 18th June,” says Rebecca. “This would be a great time to visit the gallery as it showcases at least a dozen of our represented artists.”

Adair’s work will again be featured in the winter show, and other participants include Loribelle Spirovski, who paints highly rendered portraits, stencil artist Luke Cornish, and street artist-turned-fine art practitioner Adnate, who recently painted a 20-storey mural on a Collingwood tower block.

In July, young rising star Angie Pai will have a solo show. Her work has previously been profiled in Vogue, helping to cement her status as a talent to watch.

“Her work is heavily influenced by her Taiwanese heritage, which through her lens results in very stylised representations rendered as quasi sculptural representations,” Rebecca explains.

Metro Gallery also works with The Torch’s Indigenous Arts in Prisons and Community Program by hosting two exhibitions each year. These shows display pieces by incarcerated Indigenous artists, enabling them to sell their art. Profits made from sales are held in trusts, to be received by the artists upon their release. Rebecca describes this work as “very rewarding”.

Rebecca sees Metro is part of the fabric of High Street, adding something special to the precinct’s cafe and shopping culture.

“The value add of having the gallery here is it’s supporting the arts. It’s a really nice place to just wander around on a weekend and it’s lovely to have the opportunity to have a niche. We have art that people can walk in and buy from $1000 up to $200,000. We like to think that there’s something in the gallery for everyone.”

Visitors to Metro reflect this diversity.

“We have locals who pop in and see what the latest exhibition is, through to collectors; people who are building a collection and are passionate about art,” Rebecca adds. “There are people who just love art and want it in their homes, and there are people who are perhaps looking for an investment. It’s very broad.”

Image courtesy of Metro Gallery

Lifestyle & Design

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