Art Fairs: With Hope In Our Hearts

The art fairs and events in our calendar from July – September 2021.

Words: Helen McKenzie

Art fairs are back! Get out of your tracksuit, dust off your best head to toe all black arty outfit in preparation to talk the talk, walk the walk and get up close to art. It does feel like forever ago that we were able to rub shoulders, scramble elbows out for a particularly hot artwork, or simply pontificate knowledgeably on the state of the art market with a glass of usually pretty average wine in hand. The first casualty of art fair cancellations in our region was Auckland in May last year and the first reopening is the aptly named SPRING1883 at The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne in August 2021.

Art Fair veteran attendee, gallerist Roslyn Oxley has noticed that “people are really excited to be able to visit an art fair again.” And it’s not just the art lovers who are excited. Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair (DAAF) and Sydney Contemporary have experienced record numbers of Art Centres and galleries respectively wanting to secure a stand. While the excitement is palpable, there are elements of caution as galleries organise themselves to travel either overseas or interstate. Jhana Millers from Wellington, is taking part for the first time in SPRING1833. “I wouldn’t say I was nervous about travelling to Melbourne, rather I am concerned about the organisation and costs involved in participating in an event overseas when there is a chance it might be cancelled last minute due to a Covid-19 outbreak. I will take the risk, but I am trying to organise my presentation in a way that minimises artworks being stuck in customs. Perhaps I am more nervous about being locked down in Melbourne for an extended period or having to pay for quarantine to return home. The risk of travelling to Australia is quite high and as such none of the artists will travel with me, which is a shame for all involved,” says Millers.

And so, it is with hope in our hearts that we offer a brief run-down of highlights for the upcoming art fairs in the region.

SYDNEY CONTEMPORARY

9 to 12 September, 2021
Carriageworks, Sydney

This year’s Sydney Contemporary is big; 88 galleries, from Alcaston to Yavuz. Given these times of closed borders, most participants are from Australia and New Zealand, with one clever co-presentation from Los Angeles gallery 1301PE and Starkwhite, Auckland. The two galleries have combined to show work from artists Pae White, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Petra Cortright. The association stems from 2005 when Brian Butler from 1301PE met Starkwhite director Dominic Feuchs. It begs the question, could similar collaborations work in reverse with Australian and New Zealand galleries teaming up with international galleries to attend overseas art fairs?

Collectors will not be disappointed to see serial attendee galleries Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, Fox Jensen, Sydney and Auckland, ARC ONE Gallery, Melbourne, Edwina Corlette, Brisbane, The Commercial, Sydney and GAGPROJECTS, Adelaide, among many others at Carriageworks. New to the fair is Brisbane gallery ILEANA which opened in November 2020 with a focus on inter- national art. Founder Boris Cornelissen is looking forward to showing works by Edda Renouf, Bridget Riley, Peter Schuyff and Christopher Wool. Cornelissen also expects interest in a video installation by Scottish/ Dutch duo Stansfield / Hooykaas.

Another newcomer to Sydney Contemporary this year is the Kimberley Art Centre Alliance which comprises Mangkaja, Warmum, Waringarri and Mowanjum Art Centres. This will be the first time a standalone Indigenous art group will be represented at the fair. Liam Kennedy from Mangkaja expects that both paintings and 3D sculptural pieces will be showcased. He participating in an event overseas when there is a chance it might be cancelled last minute due to a Covid-19 outbreak. I will take the risk, but I am trying to organise my presentation in a way that minimises artworks being stuck in customs. Perhaps I am more nervous about being locked down in Melbourne for an extended period or having to pay for quarantine to return home. The risk of travelling to Australia is quite high and as such none of the artists will travel with me, which is a shame for all involved,” says Millers.

One of the interesting aspects of this year’s art fair will be seeing new works by artists who have been leading particularly solitary lives over the past year. “Artists need audiences,” says James Gatt from Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney which will show Julie Fragar, Justene Williams, Gemma Smith and Sarah Mosca. “There is a huge amount of excitement,” says Gatt. “We are very much looking forward to working alongside other galleries and seeing collectors we have not seen for over a year. It will lift the spirit of both artists and galleries and there is something about the social aspect of an art fair that is necessary.”

DARWIN ABORIGINAL ART FAIR (DAAF)
6 to 8 August, 2021
Darwin Convention Centre

This year DAAF celebrates 15 remarkable years. Starting quietly as a good idea, the last fair in 2019 realised record sales in excess of $2.8m and even the difficult no fair year, 2020, managed a turnover of $2.6m in online sales. This year five new Art Centres – Arts Ceduna, Marrawuddi Arts & Culture, Ngaruwanajirri Incorporated, Thamarrurrr Men’s Shed and Walkatjara Art – will take the total number of participating Centres to a staggering 75 and will fill all four halls of the Darwin Convention Centre. Executive Director Claire Summers says, “What is exceptional about having so many Art Centres this year is that it is on the back of a really difficult year last year. It shows a huge desire to come together and be together so that we can sell art and do all that incredible networking and knowledge sharing and storytelling that we missed out on last year. If last year taught us anything, it is the power of being together.” One of the positive outcomes of the no fair year last year is that it necessitated DAAF to focus attention on its digital offering. With the help of the Ian Potter Foundation, DAAF has set up the go-to online home for Indigenous art sales in the country.

Collectors planning to attend the fair will be aware that DAAF is synonymous with Indigenous fashion. The Country to Couture showcase, National Indigenous Fashion Awards and the ongoing fashion mentoring program are all indicators that to DAAF, fashion is anything but frivolous.

CAIRNS INDIGENOUS ART FAIR (CIAF)
17 to 22 August, 2021
Cairns, various locations

CIAF was initiated to present the work of Queensland and Torres Strait Islander artists. The Curators and Collectors Program of events for 2021 has been put together by artists Tony Albert and Teho Ropeyarn. The program gives a behind the scenes guide to the fair and is well worth connecting with as collector Arthur Roe from Melbourne advises, “collectors will love it. There are really good paintings and I have bought major paintings there in the past, but I think the real strength of CIAF is in what you can’t get anywhere else, such as beautiful sculptures, both soft and hard, the silks, ceramics and the amazing lino cuts and other works on paper.”

There will be a new kid on the block at this year’s CIAF – Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney has taken a stand. The gallery will present three of the most successful artists in the country: Destiny Deacon, Tracey Moffat and Daniel Boyd. Oxley says “We’ve been showing and supporting Indigenous artists for at least 20 years now. I do feel that there is a dynamic and relevant dialogue going on at CIAF and I think that it is quite important to be part of that conversation. We like to attend art fairs and previously our attention would have been otherwise focussed on international art fairs. We are very excited to be participating. CIAF is of great interest to us because for a long time now, we have been representing Indigenous artists from Sydney, Melbourne, Yirrkala as well as more recently the APY Lands.”

SPRING1883 ART FAIR
4 to 7 August, 2021
The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne

Now in its seventh incarnation, SPRING1883 is a concept borrowed from the Gramercy Park Fair New York, where contemporary art is shown in luxury hotel rooms. 29 galleries from either Melbourne or Sydney and four from New Zealand will check in to The Hotel Windsor for the four day fair in August.

Jhana Millers will present Ayesha Green, Caitlin Devoy, Elisabeth Pointon, Christopher Ulutupu, Robbie Handcock, Claudia Kogachi and Hannah Ireland. Millers says, “All of these artists make work that is in some form about identity. Their works cross cultural, political, gender and sexual boundaries and touch on ideas of colonisation, identity politics, the gaze, family and whānau, and stereotypes. The Hotel Windsor is such a grand colonial hotel that offers up a range of contexts which my artists are keen to respond to.”

Long-time art dealer Charles Nodrum has given his gallery manager, and daughter, Kate Nodrum a free hand at SPRING1883 in Melbourne this year. Charles Nodrum Gallery attended SPRING1883, Sydney in 2019 at The Establishment Hotel. For 2021 Kate has put together a group of Melbourne geometric abstract artists, “I think it will work well with the busy décor of the hotel room, it will look so bad it will look good!” she says. Kate happily accepted the challenge of making the big oak furniture, colourful carpet and ornate embellishments of the room co-habituate with works by Lesley Dumbrell, Justin Andrews, Samara Adamson-Pinczewski and a new addition to the gallery’s stable, Louise Forthun.

Kate has allocated a work by James Gleeson to the bathroom of the hotel suite. “We have quartered him in the bathroom; Gleeson’s work is so polarising, people are either captivated or revolted,” she says.

New Zealand’s {Suite} gallery presents a solo show by Wayne Youle titled National Fuckin’ Treasure (NFT) that is bound to get tongues wagging. Having taken on New Zealand’s iconic painter Colin McCahon in 2019, Youle has shifted his gaze to Sidney Nolan and has produced a series of works based on Nolan’s famous Kelly series. Gallerist David Alsop says, “Youle uses the series to reflect on the idea of the character becoming bigger than the story. In Youle’s works, Ned Kelly and his helmet become a caricature of Nolan’s version, broken down to a simplified, almost comic book style rendering. We don’t need the narrative setting or the Australian landscape of Nolan’s works to convey the story, the helmet is enough.” Will the work be seen as controversial, almost sacrilegious, or homage? Whatever it is it will certainly be a conversation starter.

Image above: Gregory Hodge, Suspension Painting, 2019. acrylic on aluminium, composite panel, wood and steel. Presented at Sydney Contemporary 2019 by Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. Photo: Zan Wimberley. Courtesy: the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney. 

This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 97, July-September 2021. 

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