Originally published on Broadsheet Melbourne (23 February 2016) The story went viral, later appearing on several international news sites.
For anyone whose Year Eight diary was covered in doodles not fit to show Mum, this may be the exhibition for you.
It’s not every day that a newspaper doodle finds its way onto the walls of an art gallery. Especially when that doodle is of an actual doodle. But on February 26, ArtBoy Gallery in Prahran will open its most controversial show to date – Drawing Dicks on the Herald Sun: The Exhibition.
This carefully curated selection of drawings will showcase the work of 20 of the best “dick artists” in the country – handpicked from the popular Drawing Dicks on the Herald Sun Facebook page.
The page launched in 2012 as a workplace joke between two tradesmen, Dylan Merritt and Jeremy Bassett.
As Merritt tells it, a guy would get up from the table at lunch and come back to find his Herald Sun crudely defaced. Perhaps his Prime Minister would have developed a sudden passion for his new Treasurer. Or his favourite cricketer would be savouring his victory a little differently than before.
“We weren’t great drawers, we just thought it was hilarious,” Merritt says.
Within months, the page was attracting the work of established artists. Today, it has clocked up close to 400,000 likes – eclipsing the 170,000 of the Herald Sun’s own page.
“Some of those artists like Jonathan Guthmann and Tom Collins really took it from amateur to professional and they boosted the popularity of the page,” Bassett says.
Though they contacted a lawyer early on to check all the legalities, Merritt and Bassett say they have yet to hear a word from News Corp.
“They don’t want to acknowledge us,” Merritt says.
But the page did attract the interest of filmmaker Larry Boxshall and his feature documentary on the “greatest art movement seen in decades” will be released later this year. Boxshall will also be filming opening night – set to fill the gallery “to capacity” – for the final act of the film.
“These dicks are going to blow people’s minds,” Boxshall says. “Most people write them off as something only stupid men do, but almost half the artists I interviewed were female!”
Lead curator and co-owner of the ArtBoy gallery, Marc Huntington, admits he can understand why other spaces such as the National Gallery of Victoria and the Melbourne Museum turned the exhibition away.
“It’s a bit cheeky, a bit saucy,” he says. “But we don’t take ourselves too seriously here. We’re part of the pop culture scene in Melbourne and so when Larry asked to put on the show he hadn’t even finished his sentence before we said ‘yes’.”
The gallery has since been “inundated” with calls about the upcoming exhibition, most of them positive. Huntington assures audiences can expect more than just “torn newspaper pages blue tacked to the walls”.
Each work will be “beautifully framed”, there will be gold coin donations for prostate cancer research on opening night as well as a few permanent markers on hand should the crowd feel so inspired to leave their own doodle on the gallery’s empty back wall.
“We want people to laugh out loud, point and snigger,” Huntington says.
Boxshall, too, is hoping to “start a riot”.
“I can’t wait to see people in the flesh look at this art and hear what they’re thinking.”
Dominating one corner of the display will be the work of Melbourne artist Jonathan Guthmann, dubbed “Sir Guthmann” online for his incredibly detailed contributions to the Facebook page. Three of his pieces have already sold ahead of opening night.
“I always drew dicks as a kid,” Guthmann says. “I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten me into any trouble yet but it’s definitely brought me the most attention in my career.”
While much of his art carries sombre biblical themes, Guthmann says a Herald Sun doodle can take him anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half to complete. He insists the pieces are not politically motivated, though the page did see a “spike” in popularity while there were “still lots of Tony Abbott pictures in the paper”.
Boxshall has his own philosophy. “Something about defacing the Herald Sun, it’s just so Melbourne!”
Drawing Dicks on the Herald Sun: The Exhibition opens at 6 pm at the ArtBoy Gallery in Prahran on the 26 of February and will run until the 28th.
Opening night will feature opportunities to meet the artists and founders of the Facebook page and share your thoughts on camera for Larry Boxshall’s feature documentary. There will be gold coin donations at the door for prostate cancer research and entry is free from Saturday to Sunday. All content in this exhibition is mature.
99 Greville Street, Prahran
By Sherryn Groch