A Look at the 2017 Melbourne Guitar Exhibition

The Soma gallery is situated on Brunswick’s bustling Sydney Road. On any other Friday night of the year, you might find it playing host to cutting edge painting group shows or large format installation art.

Tonight, though, the works of art on display were decidedly more functional in nature. The Melbourne Guitar Exhibition, brainchild of DVB Custom Stringed Instruments’ Dan Burke, was conceived to showcase a wide range of Australian instruments outside of the usual guitar store environment. Burke wanted to focus on the instruments’ design and aesthetics.

I believe Australians make some of the very best instruments, and want to showcase and promote the great talent we have on offer." - Dan Burke

As Burke remarked, “I believe Australians make some of the very best instruments, and want to showcase and promote the great talent we have on offer. My goal is simply to expose some of this work to the public and promote the great gear available from local luthiers.”

Instruments are often labeled “works of art," but actually putting guitars in the context of a gallery made luthiers and attendees alike approach the instruments in a new way.

A guitar exhibition that doesn't allow you to play the guitars be might deflating for some - but the sheer artistry and craftmanship on display quickly quieted any gripes about not playing.

We Australians are fond of proclaiming that both our timbers and the instruments made from them are the best in the world. Events like this are quite possibly the most compelling evidence in support of this claim.

Take the accredited piano technician and practicing local luthier Brend Bunte. He works only with Australian tonewoods, seeking to achieve as much as possible with locally sourced materials.

The inaugural Melbourne Guitar Exhibition was a great way to lure guitar makers out of the woodwork and into a dedicated art space." - Anthony Paine

While Bunte’s designs may appear traditional at first glance, the internal construction shows a serious consideration of even the most fundamental aspects of guitar making. Dan Burke described the bracing on one of Bunte’s displayed instruments as “kind of like a squashed spider.”

Every piece displayed at the show mixed tradition and innovation, and Burke’s approach to curation meant that no two instruments on display were too similar to one another.

There was the masterful Jack Spira’s gorgeous Number 4–sized nylon string and Holy Grail Guitar Show participant Shane Briggs’s satinbox dreadnought. Gary Rizollo featured a Huon Pine Les Paul, and Roderick Octigan displayed two hollowbody models, both for sale on Reverb.

Having previously written about Anthony Paine’s Harvester Guitars, I was excited to see both the Jovian-Green model on display, and Paine himself in attendance. In Paine’s words, “The inaugural Melbourne Guitar Exhibition was a great way to lure guitar makers out of the woodwork (pun intended) and into a dedicated art space.

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“Coming from an art background, it was very cool for me to see these instruments presented almost as sculpture against the familiar, stark white walls of a gallery. Dan tracked down some very cool makers to participate in what I’m sure will be the first of many exhibitions.”

Burke reflected that same sentiment himself, noting that the exhibition drew some 700 attendees over two days. He hopes that the next iteration will feature 50 luthiers and over 100 instruments.

Made In Australia: Aussie-Made Music Gear Shop Now on Reverb

All photos by Kristoffer Paulsen

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