Spring 1883 returns to Sydney

Following the tradition set in 1994 by New York’s Gramercy International Art Fair, Sydney’s Spring 1883 engages with the hotel environment for the exhibition and acquisition of artwork.

Words: Briony Downes

Following the tradition set in 1994 by New York’s Gramercy International Art Fair, one of the USA’s first hotel-based art fairs to be orchestrated by art dealers and galleries, Spring 1883 is an Australian art fair uniquely engaging the hotel environment for the exhibition and acquisition of artwork. Established in 2014 at The Windsor Hotel in Melbourne by Kate Barber and Vikki McInnes (directors of Sarah Scout Presents), Geoff Newton (director, Neon Parc) and art advisor Vasili Kaliman, Spring 1883 is now in its fourth year and at the forefront of collecting trends.

Annually alternating between Sydney and Melbourne, this year Spring 1883 occupies Sydney’s boutique hotel, The Establishment. An independently curated art fair, Spring 1883 has galleries from Australia and overseas participating. Amongst other regular attendees, this year sees the return of Dubai’s Grey Noise Gallery with director Umer Butt showing paintings by Pakistani artist Fahd Burki. New to the line-up is Michael Bugelli Gallery from historic Ingle Hall in Hobart and a co-curated presentation between DUTTON (New York) and Melbourne’s Arts Project Australia. “A number of Arts Project Australia artists are attracting increased international recognition — including Alan Constable, well known for his ceramic sculptural representations of cameras,” says Spring 1883 co-director Barber.

A contrast to the modernist white space of a gallery, Spring 1883 is a comfortable alternative to the open plan format of the standard art fair. Art is literally everywhere. Paintings are propped against pillows, prints are laid out on beds and sculptures are positioned on couches and in baths. “We have found the [hotel] context conducive to generating a much more engaged dialogue around the artwork as visitors feel more inclined to enter into conversations with the work,” explains Barber. “The different venues encourage galleries to be quite experimental in their approach to presenting work in domestically scaled environments.”

Also included in Spring 1883 are tours led by fair manager Lisa Cowan, private showings with the directors and networking soirees with leading cultural innovators. Coinciding with Sydney Contemporary at Carriageworks (7-10 September), Spring 1883 is open to the public as well as galleries, artists and collectors and presents a wide range of established and emerging artists in a culturally distinct location. As Barber says, “A hotel is a psychologically loaded space, and makes for an intimate and unexpected encounter with contemporary art for audiences at Spring 1883.”

Image: Neon Prac Spring 1883, Sydney. Photo: Zan Wimberley.

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