Newsletter 375

Published February 1, 2021
Last orders at Lucio's

Another hectic week and another late posting. This is becoming a chronic problem, although no freelance writer should ever be caught complaining about extra work. One of the reasons for the delay is because I accepted an invitation to go along to the penultimate lunch at Lucio’s restaurant in Paddington. Not unexpectedly it turned into a very long afternoon.

Lucio and Sally Galletto have been at the Elizabeth Street address since 1983, serving food to the Great and the Good (and often the Not-So-Good). Over that time Lucio’s also became the restaurant-of-choice for the Sydney art world. Although artists are generally short of cash, when they do have it they seem to like nothing better than wining and dining at a top-end eatery. Lucio made the meals more accessible by accepting works of art in lieu of payment, and in time amassed a vast collection, much of it on permanent display in the restaurant. There was also a succession of books in collaboration with artists. Most of the art collection will be auctioned by Bonham’s on 21 March.

If ever a Sydney artist invited friends or clients to lunch it was almost invariably at Lucio’s, where he or she was eating their way through a work or two. One could hardly ever go there without running into painters, sculptors, printmakers and photographers. It wasn’t the first time the building acted as a haunt for artists. From 1962-67 it was the Hungry Horse Gallery, and then from 1965-67, Kym Bonython’s Hungry Horse Gallery, where a famous photo was taken of a group of wellknown artists gathered on the balcony.

The day I attended was the second-last before Lucio and Sally close up shop. As it seemed almost impossible for Lucio to get the well-wishers fed and out the door, I dread to think what the final day must have been like. One wonders if there is another Lucio’s waiting somewhere in the wings? The city’s artists need a new dining headquarters.

This week the Herald is running the column on Wendy Sharpe’s Ghosts exhibition in Mosman, which is really a survey of recent work. Whether one likes Wendy’s work or not it would be hard not to admire her energy and commitment. No matter how big the challenge, she’s up for it, painting murals on the walls, clustering hundreds of small works on paper, creating an installation out of painted lampshades… If you’re going to be an artist you have to love what you do, even to the point of obsession.

Speaking of obsessions there are plenty on display in Dominik Moll’s Only the Animals, which is the subject of the current film column. A strange, original mystery that comes together piece by piece it gives me hope that some decent flicks are starting to trickle back into the cinema. If the audiences don’t start returning soon Lucio’s won’t be the only Sydney institution to close its doors in 2021.