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Tag Archives: art fair

The Other Art Fair

What other art fair? Melbourne doesn’t have an art fair anymore as the Melbourne Art Fair was cancelled last year. There is the Not Fair. There has also been the Affordable Art Fair, Supergraph and probably a something else, like a craft fair.

On Thursday night I was at the opening of The Other Art Fair, the start of a four day event. Presented by Saatchi Art; it is very well run with a food, coffee, a bar, music, space to sit down, lots of portable gas heaters glowing red, an art wrapping service, performance art and other events.

Kensington, on the other side of the Moonee Ponds Creek, is not a suburb associated with art exhibitions. Between two railway lines and near a tram line it is a surprisingly accessible location. The venue, The Facility is another surprise a converted wool-shed with some new interior additions.

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“Keep your eyes open, you never know what you might see.”

Reads the note that I selected at random from the performance artist’s bag, a work devised by by Rioko Tega.

Unlike most art fair the 98 booths at the Other Art Fair have artists and not galleries. The art ranges in styles from the painterly abstract, hard edge abstracts, large format art photography, realist landscapes, paintings of animals, surreal fantasies and erotic tapestries.

Most of the artists are not represented by a major commercial gallery but I recognised a couple of names, emerging artists that I have seen in various smaller galleries. The interior and exterior walls of the venue reminded me what was missing from the variety of artist exhibiting there were no street artists.

Meeting the artist is what every art buyer wants, to meet the person who created the art. It is a tough gig for the artist, four days of fronting their art, hoping to sell enough to pay their expenses. The artists were picked by a selection committee that included the artist Patricia Piccinini, Director of Mossgreen Gallery Lisa Fehily and Senior Curator at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art Annika Kristensen. The committee has done its job in ensuring a consistent quality of artists. There is a lot of attractive, fashionable art that would compliment contemporary decor, along with, depending on your taste, some beautiful art direct from the artist.

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Melbourne Art Fair Cancelled

In 1988 the “First Australian Contemporary Art Fair” was held at the Royal Exhibition Building. It was the year of the bicentennial and the new art fair was presented by the Australian Commercial Galleries Association and the Bicentennial Authority. Since then, every two years, the Melbourne Art Fair (MAF) has been held in the Royal Exhibition Building. Now it is over, not with a bang but a whimper of an announcement.

Melbourne Art Fair 2014

Melbourne Art Fair 2014 at the Exhibition Building

The announcement of the cancellation from Anna Pappas, chair of the not-for-profit  MAF came on Friday 19 2016. Art Guide and The Age scrambled to publish this major story that day. The Guardian waited until it had discovered who the “high-profile galleries” that Pappas referred to in her statement. The Age had made an informed guess that this might include Diane Tanzer Gallery, but this proved not to be the case. Melbourne may not have an art fair any more but it does have more than one major commercial art gallery.

There are still many unanswered questions about the cancelled art fair. Is this the beginning of a trend or just one of the common variety of administrative debacle?

Suggesting that the cancelation of art was due to an administrative debacle is the fact that in August 2015 the MAF had severed its contract to manage the fair with Art Fairs Australia. If that is the case then we can expect that MAF will be re-established in a couple of years.

However, there are reasons to think that it is the start of a trend away from the art fair model. Barry Keldoulis told the media at the opening of the MAF 2014 that “art fairs may not be the best way to see art but they are the best way to see hell of lot of art.” If art fairs are not be the best way to see art why would they be the best way to buy art or sell art. Although art fairs were promoted as the mega-art market there are serious commercial art galleries in Melbourne who have done the math and decided that the MAF is not worth it.

Considering the last MAF two years ago in hindsight I should have been spending more time at the Not Fair rather than the MAF. Not Fair was the alternative satellite to the MAF. It was curated exhibition in Collingwood at 12 Peel Street and The Grace Darling Hotel. Its curators, Sam Leach, Ashley Crawford and Rebecca Richards had put together an exhibition that has been mentioned more times to me in the last two years than the MAF.

The loss of the MAF is not a disaster for Australian art. Australian art has changed so much in the three decades since the art fair started. Looking at the 1988 art fair catalogue Patrick McCaughey’s introductory essay about the Australian art in the eighties was about a contemporary art scene that had just emerged. In the 1988 art fair where there was only 21 galleries involved. Of the Melbourne galleries that were exhibiting in 1988 only Australian, Niagara and Tolarno galleries are still operating. Tolarno Galleries is one of the galleries whose non-participation this year ended the MAF.


Art Market @ No Vacancy

On Friday night I was at the opening of No Vacancy’s Art Market. It was a mini-art street art fair with over a dozen little stalls. There was free entry, unlike at the major art fairs. There were photographs, stencil art, drawings, illustrations and prints of illustrations; custom toys, soft toys and sculptures; jewellery, badges, cards, packs of cards, t-shirts, skateboard decks, artists books and zines all by young emerging artists and designers. The range of merchandise that is being produced in this young art scene with its street art and illustration influences is amazing. This is not like the stuff on sale at some Sunday market’s craft stalls; it has been better organized than that, even, in a way, curated as there is a consistency of style.

The art market also had a 2nd hand book stall and a stall selling clothes. On Friday night a one-man band was entertaining the hundreds of people making good use looping on a digital delay.

Many young people are participating in an affordable democratic art market. That people are choosing to buy art and fashion from local practicing artists rather than the mass marketed images or picking up the crumbs from the high-end art market. Rock’n’roll, punk and hip-hop have all played their part in forging resilient independent tastes. People know what art is and they know what they like. And the Art Market at No Vacancy gives them the opportunity to buy it.

I didn’t go to the The Weekend Australian Art Melbourne 09 at the Royal Exhibition Building. I’ve been to previously when it was known as the Affordable Art Fair and I’ve been told me not much has changed. I wouldn’t go unless they paid me; I can go to several of these galleries for free four or five days any week, why do I need to pay to go to The Weekend Australian Art Melbourne 09? Art Asia Pacific (#60. Sep/Oct 2008) reported on the proliferation of mega-exhibitions in “Biennials Gone Wild”; where art fairs have grown in budgets and visitor numbers into the millions. The effects of the current economic depression have yet to impact on these events although Art Brisbane 09 has been cancelled. I enjoyed No Vacancy’s Art Market as it is more alternative and more affordable.


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