A rare lithograph found on a Sydney kerb has sparked a new art movement that proves one man's trash certainly is another man's treasure.
The annual Salon de Refuse exhibition, organised by the online Street Bounty community, sees a Newtown alleyway transformed into a take-what-you wish art gallery.
"One person found what they thought was a framed print in Surry Hills - on Street Bounty - and they took it home and their flatmate said 'that doesn't look like a print, that looks like an original'. And it was an original lithograph, it was a Norman Lindsay worth around $5000," said Newtown local James Cottam, founder of Street Bounty and organiser of the Salon de Refuse.
What I love the most is when little kids come around and put something up that they've made.- James Cottam
"When they posted that I made a joke that, instead of the Salon des Refusés - the famous French exhibition of the rejected - we should have a Salon de Refuse, and it got a few laughs. So with the help of Young Henry's, I set this up."
For two weeks, artwork liberated from landfill hangs on the walls of an alleyway-cum-gallery behind Young Henry's Brewery. Throughout the year, members of the Street Bounty community collect artworks they've spotted on the kerb ready for a passerby to fall in love with and take home.
"People, especially in rentals, like having something on the walls but they usually have to work with just the hooks they've got. They like this event because they can come around and find something to fit their space and get rid of other works which may not suit," Mr Cottam said.
"It's so subjective - there are some artworks I look at and think I would never put that on my wall, and then I see people come in and say 'that is magnificent, I must have it!'"
It's not only artworks found on the kerb that end up in the Salon de Refuse. Mr Cottam says there have been well-known local artists like print-maker Sally Browne who've come by to put up their works, free for the taking.
"What I love the most is when little kids come around and put something up that they've made - a picture of a bunny or flower or something - and they are so excited and feel like they've exhibited their work. They're as happy as if their work was in the National Gallery of Australia," he said.
The first Salon de Refuse was held last year and Mr Cottam said it was a "huge success", with 1500 people drifting through to leave or take an artwork.
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"I worked a lot on Salon de Refuse during the lockdown because I had nothing else to do," he said.
"After we did it last year it seemed the idea had legs, the South Australia Living Artists Festival did one, the Coal Loader Centre for Sustainability in North Sydney did one, and they want to do another in Woy Woy in November - it's been picked up a fair bit."
Mr Cottam started Street Bounty in 2016. He had the idea after spotting an art deco sideboard on the side of the road. He fell in love with it and wanted to bring it home to match the rest of his flat which had been kitted out using kerbside hard rubbish or free offers on Facebook community groups, but his wife said "not a chance".
"I was noticing really good furniture around - people throw out Federation-era wardrobes with nothing wrong with them and I love that kind of stuff. I was kind of in the mind, why should I pay $500 at an antique place when I can get it for free," he said.
"That's why I put that first sideboard up on my personal Facebook. One of my friends picked it up, wiped it down, put it in their house and sent me a photo within half an hour. That's what made me start the group."
According to Inner West Council data, every year around 45,138 tonnes of waste goes into landfill. The group Mr Cottam started on Facebook, Inner West Street Bounty, reduces landfill in a simple way - people take pictures of usable items they have seen on the kerb for council collection, post them in the group and "waste-wise and thrifty locals" come by and take what they need.
More than 300 people joined the group in its first weekend and now it has over 37,000 members. Soon, Mr Cottam was setting up more groups for other communities around Australia as well as the US and Canada.
"If I didn't live in the inner west when I thought of this I wouldn't have done it. The inner west community has always been about this kind of thing."
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