A quiet calm befell the Trafalgar Centre late yesterday in anticipation of what will hopefully be a storm of interest in South Island art this weekend.
The inaugural Art Expo Nelson opened at the centre today, with one sale achieved even before the official opening, co-organiser Annie Leather said.
The Regional Art Development Initiative (RADi) - the same group that produced the Nelson Arts Guide - is behind the expo, with the aim of putting under one roof about 500 works by 100 artists for dealers and the public to view and purchase.
Art dealers from around the country will be here this weekend to see the work of South Island artists selected from a pool of more than 150 applicants. Eighty per cent are from the Nelson region and the rest from around the South Island.
Exhibition manager Nic Foster said the works were by a mix of established and emerging artists, with prices ranging from $300 to up to $20,000.
He said yesterday it was a great way to centralise efforts to expose artists to dealers, particularly after many opportunities had been lost in the wake of the Canterbury earthquakes.
"We want to position ourselves as the major South Island art exhibition," Mr Foster said.
"If this is successful, we want to make it annual."
He said it was great to see the Trafalgar Centre transformed and humming with high-grade art.
"We've also relied on the generosity of the sponsors to bring the 16 art dealers to Nelson and host them."
Marlborough craftsman and designer Jason Tillman, who was busy putting the finishing touches to his work yesterday, said the expo was a great opportunity for new and emerging artists to be exposed to a new audience.
"So many galleries only cater to the known names. It's great to have everyone together, and it's great to see Nelson stepping up and doing this, particularly as there are so few outlets in Marlborough."
Mr Foster said RADi would make a decision on whether to make the expo an annual event based on the success of this weekend.
"We always dine out on the fact that we're an art region, and now we're actually presenting the face of it."
Art Expo Nelson, Trafalgar Centre, today until 6pm and tomorrow from 10am until 4pm. Entry at door, adults $5, seniors and students $4, children up to 15 free.
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