Murray White Room has been lucky throughout the pandemic. We count our blessings daily and empathise with those who have been more affected. Murray White Room is alive and OK, and our modest staff remain employed. Nonetheless these have been very difficult times to navigate in terms of programming and exhibitions so we have gradually geared down over the past eighteen months to being 100% by appointment only and online. Murray White Room didn't exhibit publicly again until the Melbourne Art Fair in late February 2022.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the systemic marginalisation across many industries, however this was acutely recognised by me in the arts industry during the extremely brief transition from the catastrophic bushfires of 2019–20 to the ensuing pandemic since March 2020.
The philanthropic spirit of artists and art workers during the bushfires was extraordinary—the artists Murray White Room represents and many colleagues were called upon—and indeed initiated fundraising efforts to give and donate generously alongside performing artists, musicians and comedians in stellar form. It was heartbreaking to subsequently see our industry colleagues fall through the gaps in COVID-19 resilience support in a matter of weeks. I can only interpret this double standard as the bushfires impacted a relatively small contingent of the Australian population, whereas COIVD-19 had the potential to affect the entire Australian population—as it now has.
We’ve had some miraculous hits and some devastating misses since March 2020—and I am totally over the buzz terms ‘silver linings’, ‘pivot’, ‘agile’ and ‘unprecedented times‘—all of which we’ve necessarily taken in our stride. Just because you can go out, doesn’t mean you must go out. We learnt this the hard way since November 2020 and have invested significant resources in remote, isolated and logistically difficult times, so why change now? I cautiously reckon there are still more adverse affects to come on the horizon.
In commercial terms it’s been a fickle, nuanced time. There has been a marked increase in disposable income invested in visual art acquisitions due to the termination of first class world travel for almost two years. However conversely, launching new projects 'online only' in the sporadic periods of 'opening up’ has seen a marked decrease in commercial activity due to collectors being out and about, and no longer locked down and shopping online.
I have invited Alasdair McLuckie and The Huxleys to contribute to this conversation because they both experienced various project hits and misses over the past eighteen months, but most notably, for their creative process and production of new work during the longest periods of lockdown globally.
Postscript—Since Art + Australia invited Murray White Room to contribute to this conversation, my son contracted the Delta strain of the Coronavirus, which I subsequently tested positive for while in hospital for an unrelated routine procedure—so from the horse’s mouth, I can truly attest to the bravery, compassion and care of our under-rated health care professionals and front line workers who I now value equally with artists—and I surely praise God’s grandmother for vaccines...