Gallery was meant to be
It had been the question on everyone’s lips in Mullumbimby for months – what kind of shop would open in the elegant new building in Burringbar Street?
Last Friday night all was revealed, as Art Piece Gallery threw off the newspaper from its windows and artists and friends crowded in, spilling out on to the pavement and onto the road, oblivious to the chilly evening in the joy of celebrating an exciting development in the life of art in Byron Shire.
It was a triumphant evening for gallery owner Nadine Abensur, an evening that but for a series of serendipitous events might never have happened.
Nadine’s childhood was in Casablanca and then in London, and her professional life began in “the artistry of food” as she took vegetarian cookery to a whole new level, and wrote sumptuous cookbooks that became best-sellers.
She migrated to Australia, came to Mullumbimby, and in 2007 opened Art Piece Gallery in a small shop in Stuart Street, but gradually it all began to feel too cramped, and matters came to a head at the end of last year on the way back from a trip to London.
“I spent 12 hours in Rome, the most extraordinarily inspiring and romantic day, in the city where everywhere you look there is something beautiful to see,” she said.
“I came out of an exhibition of Caravaggio and Bacon at the Villa Borghese elated, feeling that art is so important to me, and it’s just not enough to shove it away in a little corner.
“I wanted to burst out – I knew if I carried on where I was I would just die, with no space to dream.”
But where to go to dream was the big question, for whilst Nadine had put her name down on the list for the new building in Burringbar Street 18 months previously, long before it had even been built, all the estate agent would say was that “lots of others are interested”.
“I looked at Bangalow,” said Nadine.
“But somehow I kept being pulled back to Mullumbimby, where my heart is, even though people kept saying you’re mad not going to Bangalow.”
In the meantime she had been made an offer for the Stuart Street premises that she accepted in March, and with another possible location falling through at the last minute because the landlord didn’t want an art gallery in his premises, Art Piece was homeless and Nadine was fed up.
“I woke up one morning and thought that’s it, I’m taking my name off the list,” Nadine said.
She wanted to do it face to face rather than send an impersonal email, but chose 4pm to drive in to town to accomplish the deed.
But as every local knows, it’s impossible to get a park in town at that time, so after several fruitless drives around the block it was, “oh damn, I’ll do it in the morning.”
But when she got home there was the “congratulations you’ve got the shop” email waiting for her, and at that point she had to accept that it was all meant to be.
Then an already-booked trip away had to happen, and on her return there were less than three weeks to bring it all together, and indeed just hours before the grand opening workmen were still bustling round hanging paintings and installing fittings.
All the art in the gallery is by local artists, as is most of the jewellery and craft.
“My idea is to raise the bar,” she explained, “to really showcase the best of the shire’s artists.
“But I am still committed to representing young undiscovered artists, and I will always be there to help people get that first step on the ladder, and for buyers too, who also have to start some-where.”
But in the end Nadine is where she is because she feels so passionately about the importance of art to society.
“It’s so easy to get swamped by the technological age,” she said, “to forget what makes our heart sing.”