On a clear Tuesday evening, a twenty-ish, canvas-shod scruffster shuffled east from Bathurst onto Wellington and, looking either very lost or very uncomfortable, turned hesitantly into the gated patio of Marben Restaurant. He exchanged a few words with a sleek, formidably stiletto’d woman, and, miraculously, slipped inside.
Sneakers allowed at this swankest of James Chatto-approved eateries? When it’s an Omy Gallery party, well, yeah.
“We wanted to make the art more accessible and affordable,” explained Omy owner Mike Echlin, as he rendered a stunning closeup of his girlfriend in black, white, and lipstick red. Feeling covetous? The portrait would sell for $1200; prints go for $400, or framed for $700. For those still less spendy, the 1140 Queen Street West gallery will sell stickers, t-shirts, and other graphic goodies.
The night marked the launch of what Echlin hopes will be a monthly throwdown at Marben: a celebration of Omy Collective’s all-star roster—Stu Playdead, Soy, and other catchily monikered artists—and a unique intersection of Queen West (too-cool-for-school kids who dig pop art) and King West (arguably less cool, but can actually afford to buy the stuff).
And how did the two crowds mingle? Like oil and watercolours. Friends of the restaurant indulged in free Prosecco and popcorn upstairs (a socialite’s diet, if we ever saw one), their desultory banter equally as light. Friends of the gallery tossed back Jager with the bartender-slash-theatre-actor downstairs and flitted around Jay Bird (the youngest, bluest-eyed of the artists), who was painting live in a style inspired by “Dr. Seuss, if he drank a lot of whiskey.”
Right. What kind of whiskey?
“Fireball. Have you ever had it? Crazy. It tastes like cinnamon hearts. You drink it, you’re like ‘okay, this is fine’ and then… bam.”
And if that was a metaphor for his work, we were a little too, shall we say, post-bam to notice.
After two hours of spinning shimmery electro house (Cut Copy, Fred Falke) in her glass booth, DJ Vaneska traipsed down the stairs, all hair and sequins. “I don’t think they like my music,” she sighed to a throng of Ourspace cadets, who promptly responded with a chorus of as ifs.
Upstairs, the condo crowd was just as happy listening to an iPod.
“This art isn’t even my style,” remarked one glossy brunette to another. “But I like it!”
“Do you want to look around?” offered a vintage-layered redhead from the other side of the party. The brunettes looked politely indifferent. She gestured to a table of handpainted heels and sneaks by graphic conceptualist Ndeur. “There are shoes…”
“Shoes?!” The girls squealed in unison, their smiles suddenly genuine. Ah. Harmony at last.
Photos by Elyse Connery, except top left: “Big Man” by Soy, print available at Omy Gallery.