Annual Exhibition 2008

Bohemians’ Lunch at fortyfivedownstairs

13 July 2008

Celebrating 70 years of CAS: 1938 - 2008

A review by Cressida Fox

On 13 July 1338, the Contemporary Art Society was established in Melbourne. On 13 July 2008, we celebrated the society’s 70th anniversary of foundation with a birthday party for CAS! Held in the venue of this year’s Annual Exhibition at fortyfivedownstairs in Flinders Lane, Melbourne, we dined in style in this wonderfully spacious gallery, surrounded by art.

Not quite all of the art, however, was on the walls and sculpture stands. The order of the day was “no suits”, and to dress bohemian - and most of the diners did. The many wonderful creations included Evelyn’s genuine deco 1920’s beaded dress with cloche hat, Amy's silk kimono, Ian and Roger’s broad-brimmed black hats, Fred's psychedelic 70's tie, Joy’s layers of lovely fabrics, Denise’s lacy sleeves, Shelley’s scintillating “mantilla”, Suzanne’s black-and-white frock and headdress ... these were just a few of the many visual delights, as well as the art itself, 97 pieces of particularly high standard work by 62 CAS members.

As guests arrived and were offered champagne, dolmades and sushi as they viewed the exhibition. President Robert Lee did a brief welcoming speech and talk on the exhibition and the CAS history room.

Then the pizzas arrived and people were ushered to their seats, each with their own name card, their special Bohemians’ Lunch invitation which also served as a menu of the delightful food to come, and their specially allocated plate - which would become theirs after the exhibition ended. The 53 dinner sized plates had been specially made for the occasion and hand painted by CAS Committee (Cressida Fox, Robert Lea, Joy Elizabeth Lee, Rosemary Mangiamele, Kathe Bibi Ostermark, Elizabeth Watt). Each plate bore a distinctive design and style. During the exhibition the plates had been laid out on black cloth covered trestle tables as an installation, but today they were all face down on the table. With the preamble done, there was many an “oooh”, “aaah” and “wow” as people were instructed that they could now turn their plates over and see whose plate they had got.

As people dined on the selection of gourmet pizzas with garden salad, waldorf salad and our special “CAS Label” wines, conversation flowed energetically. Ronald Greenaway, a very early CAS member, past President 1963-1965 and newsletter editor for many years, talked about CAS social events of earlier times and some of the members he knew then such as John Perceval and David Boyd, and of people getting drunk and falling into fireplaces - he said we have moved on since then.

After pizza, our President, Robert, did a “lucky number” draw (the lunch invitations and plates were numbered 1 yo 53). With vaudevillian flourish, he announced each lucky number, described and gave out the lucky prizes, amid “oooh”, “aaah” and “whoh” as the audience joined in with the vaudevillian spirit. Prizes included a cat pencil case, boxed confectionery, doll headed pens, a pink pot scrubber - “like Christmas”, someone said.

Elaborate cheese and fruit platters followed, and big platters of Darrell Lea chocolates (mmmmm), and tea and coffee. The piece de resistance was a small table laden with six chocolate mud cakes decorated with jaffas and blazing candles, and the three middle cakes spelling out “CAS”, which the President and Secretary carried carried into the room singing “Happy Birthday to CAS.” Everyone joined in, gave a big round of applause and cheered. It was a proud and special moment. As Robert said, it was a celebration of achieving 70 years, a big achievement for a non-profit organisation and unusual, as many don’t make it this far. Robert called the CAS Committee together to gather at the cakes and thanked them for their work in making it all possible. After cake, he did a final thank you to Lael Lea for providing the platters of chocolates plus a gift bag Darrell Lea chocolates for each diner to take home.

The luncheon had started with a mad flurry of preparation within a short timeframe, preparing the lunch and converting the gallery to a “dining hall.” Thank you to all our volunteers who made the fresh salads, set up the tables, poured and served the champagne, circulated with trays of appetisers and made sure everyone got enough pizza, and did the big clean-up afterwards: Denise Dempsey, Joy Lea, Rosemary Mangiamele, Anita Van Grootveld, Shelley Vincent, Elizabeth Watt, Cressida Fox and Robert Lee, plus several diners who kindly jumped in and helped with setting up and serving. Thank you to our President, Robert Lee for planning, organising and catering the lunch to the last detail from go to whoa, from getting the platters, cutlery and food to setting the tables, cutting the cake and converting the “dining hall” back to a gallery. Thank you also to Phillipa from fortyfivedownstairs for selling exhibition catalogues during the lunch, to Lael Lea for providing the delectable Darrell Lea chocolates and serving the mud cake and cream, to Fred F for taking the photos (with Brian D) and helping with the big job of packing up and ferrying equipment, and finally to all the dinner guests who came and entered into the celebratory spirit, helping to make it a truly great occasion.

CAS Bohemian's Lunch - PHOTO GALLERY

(click on << or >> buttons below picture to go through gallery)


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