Words: Duro Jovicic
Art critic John McDonald has noted that Sydney Contemporary could be seen as an index of cultural change. This notion can be applied to most fairs that bring in many differing galleries, seeing work by a variety of artists, reckoning with their environment and beyond. This is showcased for earnest collectors and the general public alike to enjoy, and hopefully to buy en masse to make the venture worthwhile. The next few months will bring some gripping artistic developments in this space, with the lingering shackles of Covid almost a distant memory.
The following art fairs demonstrate that the art market, and people’s thirst for new and innovative works, has weathered past and continued global turbulence and, if anything, has grown – revealing that art remains a crucial site of appreciation, connection and understanding of the world at large.
Spring1883 Art Fair
The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne
9 to 12 August 2023
The Spring1883 Art Fair, now in its eighth iteration, features a modest though quality-driven offering of 28 galleries from Australia and New Zealand, held in The Hotel Windsor. The who’s who of exhibiting galleries includes Melbourne’s Niagara Gallery, and LON Gallery, and Sydney’s Darren Knight Gallery and CHALK HORSE. Adam Stone, director of LON, explains that, “Spring1883 is known for its electric, party-like atmosphere, which makes it a far more enjoyable fair for gallerists and fairgoers alike. This is my fifth time at Spring1883 and every time the overwhelming feedback from collectors is how much more enjoyable a setting Spring1883 is in comparison to a standard trade fair style fair… there is a more exciting range of exhibiting galleries, from younger project spaces, to established powerhouses exhibiting side by side… you get a wonderful cross-generational intermingling of artists, visitors, and galleries.” Stone takes an inclusive approach at this fair, exhibiting works from all his artists to give the viewing public a more comprehensive outline of the talent and range in his stable.
Darren Knight Gallery will feature works that inject humour and political satire into the cultural conversation, with the inclusion of artists Paula Hyland and Melbourne-based activist Nat Thomas. Thomas’ works Marcel Duchamp as a Corporate CEO 1 and 2 are a witty take on Marcel Duchamp’s practice in art of readymades where, as Duchamp observes, “an ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist”.
Gallerist Darren Knight is cognisant of the magnitude of representation in a forum such as Spring1883, noting that “with the majority of our interactions with collectors happening online, the attraction of Spring is the opportunity to put artworks in front of people in real life. Geographic considerations are less relevant now that this online engagement is so pervasive, however, as a gallery based in Sydney with a significant number of Melbourne-based artists in our stable, Spring is a great opportunity to connect with interstate collectors both new and old.”
September 6 to 9 2023
Very much in its infancy, Frieze Seoul will host its second art fair this coming September, with the inaugural launch hosting more than 110 galleries from around the world. Its standing was assured from the get-go, with the first occurrence having had London gallerist Richard Nagy show some 40 Egon Schiele works – the first ever substantial solo presentation of the Austrian artist. In 2023, Frieze Seoul will welcome galleries from the United Kingdom, America, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Singapore and many more. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before the Australian and New Zealand dealers make the trip to Seoul.
7 to 10 September 2023
Sydney Contemporary, with more than 90 participating galleries included in its unique and immense space at Carriageworks, dovetails well into emulating Sydney’s reputation as an international city. Melbourne’s Alcaston Gallery will show Betty Kuntiwa Pumani and late artist Sally Gabori, among others. It will also show a rare seminal large format painting by Gabori that was recently seen at Fondation Cartier and Triennale Milano, Italy, 2023. Alcaston’s director Beverly Knight shares that, “an important and equally exciting aspect of participating at Sydney Contemporary each year is the opportunity to present our artists to a wide and diverse national and international art audience… the event acts as a meaningful platform for increasing visibility and reaching a broader spectrum of individuals who appreciate and admire art in its various forms.”
A momentous development at this fair is the coupling of collector Konfir Kabo and art adviser John Cruthers, decking out a space with their shared passion and sapient understanding of the Indonesian art scene. Kabo is Australia’s largest collector of Indonesian art and with his wife Monica Lim, through Project Eleven, has supported innumerable exhibitions and artist grants in drawing attention to the cultural and artistic richness shown by our Indonesian counterparts. Cruthers, with a legacy as a preeminent art adviser and whose family has donated the largest collection of women’s art to the University of Western Australia, now runs a space named 16albermarle that focuses on contemporary art from southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia.
As Cruthers observes, “Indonesian art is little known in Australia – surprising since we are neighbours and the art scenes in Jogjakarta, Bandung and Jakarta are flourishing, sophisticated and show artists working at a high level of creativity. 16albermarle and Project Eleven were both established to make Indonesian art better known in Australia, and to help connect Australia with our closest neighbour.” They will enthral audiences with the sculptural and paper-based works of Arwin Hidayat.
Hidayat’s work is inspired by folktales told to him by his father of mythical happenings wherein people and animals change into each other to form imaginary creatures. He will also paint a mural at the fair, conduct a workshop, and host an artist’s talk. It will be an interactive spectacle not beholden to just what’s on the walls. Cruthers and Kabo will also launch a new portfolio of limited-edition prints made by some of Indonesia’s leading visual artists, in association with Devetru Print Studio in Bali. Cruthers sees the clear benefits of being at Sydney Contemporary as, “five days in the company of people equally obsessed with art as we are, and having very good art that very few Australians will be aware of. We hope that by the end of the fair, many more Australians will be converts to Indonesian art.”
David Hagger, director of Blackartsprojects, has been a part of Sydney Contemporary since its inception, seeing it as a vital outlet to promote his stable of artists. Robert Fielding, Beth Thornber, Billy Bain, and Tristan Chant will be included this year. Fielding’s work almost defies description, traversing canvas, photography and handmade objects amongst other forms of media. The National Portrait Gallery of Australia recently procured a whole suite of captivating Aboriginal elder statesmen photos by him. The common thread is Fielding’s passion for his Aboriginal heritage, which effortlessly resonates throughout his highly accomplished oeuvre. Hagger opines that “…we look forward to returning every year to reconnect with interstate clients, colleagues, and institutions. While we spend a lot of time meeting new people at the fair, the most valuable work is done outside fair hours over studio visits, meetings, and dinners.”
The Armory Show
Javits Center, New York
September 8 to 10 2023
The Armory Show, founded in 1994, New York, will host more than 225 galleries and represent more than 30 countries. Though only a few days long, it holds events such as Armory Talks, which is a year-round program of discussions that fosters thoughtful conversations between industry leaders, artists, and other unique voices. The fair has been assiduous in its representation, with an African focus seeing a more diverse gathering of works. Victoria Miro Gallery had works by Chris Ofili, Kara Walker and Wangechi Mutu. It will be curious to see how it performs this year given the potential competition of Frieze New York, though so far, all signs indicate that it will remain an international and domestic collector destination, and a must-see event.
The Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns
July 13 to July 16 2023
The Cairns Indigenous Art fair (CIAF) is an initiative established by the QLD Government and is committed to strengthening and celebrating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. This year’s theme is Weaving our Future: Claiming our Sovereignty; the aim, as stated by artistic director Francoise Lane, is to “present compelling contemporary perspectives that are provocative and emotive, and raise the conscience of the broader society”.
Alcaston Gallery will participate in this fair with two generations of Kaiadilt women artists. The exhibit will feature the works of Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori (c.1924–2015) alongside paintings by her daughters, Amanda Jane Gabori, Dorothy Gabori, and Elsie Gabori. Additionally, the gallery will present intricately woven sculptures by Shirley Macnamara, a NATSIAA 2023 finalist. Of Macnamara’s work, Alcaston Gallery notes that, “her creations, infused with great insight, evoke poetic allure and poignant aesthetics, aligning seamlessly with the fair’s overarching theme.”
The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair
Darwin Convention Centre, Darwin
11 to 13 August 2023
Photo courtesy: The Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair, 2022. Courtesy: Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 105, July to September 2023.