Black Friday camp with a twist as art lovers brave Hobart cold for a chance to buy paintings

On the eve of Black Friday in Hobart, people weren’t camping out in the cold for a chance to buy a big TV, they were lining up to buy artwork worth tens of thousands of dollars.

Tasmanian artist Michael McWilliams greeted a rock star at his latest exhibition with people camping out all night to secure one of his 21 paintings.

MacWilliams 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 landscapes of Tasmania and the native and introduced fauna and flora.

Fans of his work had started lining up outside the Handmark Gallery on Salamanca Place the night before, some even bringing leather chairs with them to keep themselves more comfortable than regular Black Friday shoppers.

People in sleeping bags, camping chairs and sofa in the early hours of the morning sitting on the sidewalk outside a gallery.
People camped all night outside the Handmark Gallery in hopes of picking up a piece for Michael McWilliams.(ABC News: Joel Reinberger)

Art lovers may have thought they got into a deal simply by having the chance to purchase artwork from McWilliams, but there was nothing cheap about the paintings, which ranged from $1,700 to $45,000.

Justin Barber was first in line and waited 16 hours for the doors to open, with temperatures dropping to 7.1°C early this morning.

“I do a lot of trekking in the plateau, so I had the right equipment to protect me and keep warm,” he said.

A man stands at the entrance to the hallway after waiting to be first in line.
Justin Barber was the first to buy a painting and Steve Cameron was second.(ABC News: Glenn Dixon)

With the first and best in-game gameplay, Mr. Barber was delighted with his choice of artwork.

“Michael McWilliams, I think it’s possible that for me and I think many of the people who were sitting here last night, he would be considered one of the best living artists in Tasmania,” he said.

A man toasts with champagne while standing in front of a painting showing the Tassi tiger and fallen trees.
Justin Barber toasted champagne after he was able to pick out his palette of choice.(ABC News: Glenn Dixon)

Steve Cameron came in second and was waiting on behalf of a friend.

“I’ll get the person I want,” he said. “Obviously the other people at the other end of the line will have fewer options.”

Annabelle Tyson joined the queue at 4:30 AM.

“I got off from Launceston and had time in bed before I came here,” she said.

Given her position in class, she accepted that she wouldn’t get the artwork she wanted.

Two women standing and packing a camping chair outside an exhibition while chatting.
Annabelle Tyson (left) was too far from line to buy her perfect McWilliams painting. (ABC News: Glenn Dixon)

The painted cabinet, which took five years to complete, is being sold with expressions of interest.

Ms. Tyson said she was a friend of the artist.

“Michael is very determined not to make his work too expensive for people, it makes sense,” she said.

People seem to have money, especially with the coronavirus and people not traveling.

About twenty people look at the paintings in a small gallery.
The cost of the paintings ranged from $1,700 to $45,000.(ABC News: Glenn Dixon)

First, the best dress means that some get lost

Handmark Gallery director Alanah Dobson said the artist’s last exhibition three years ago saw queues form in the early hours of opening day.

She said she was “shocked” when people started arriving early yesterday afternoon.

A woman wearing glasses and a colored scarf stands in front of a gallery with a row of people behind her waiting to enter.
Gallery director Alana Dobson ran tea for those lining up last night.(ABC News: Glenn Dixon)

“I think word got out and people realized that if they wanted a great Michael McWilliams painting, they’d better come down here.”

She said the first and best dressed order seemed to be the only fair option.

“Three years ago when Michael’s last show was in person, online, and email.”

Two women look at a painting of an open black canopy standing over cut wood.
Michael McWilliams’ paintings are loved because of their conservation themes.(ABC News: Glenn Dixon)

“We found again that people were queuing from 3am and when they all worked on the piece they wanted you could barely pick up the phone or look at an email so I guess we realized that was the only way we could do it .”

She missed a lot of people.

“Unfortunately, yes, and I know some people were here to queue up and realized they missed the opportunity so they left or they missed the person they wanted,” Dobson said.

A man holding two children looks at a painting of birds.
People of all ages came to see the new artworks for sale.(ABC News: Glenn Dixon)

She said she could understand why Michael McWilliams had such a large following.

“He’s also got a great sense of keeping up his work.

“Although it is nice to look at, it also tells a story about protecting our environment.”

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