When Melbourne Art Fair returns from February 22 to 25, its program will unite under the idea of ketherba, a Boon Wurrung word that signifies togetherness. This year, the program brings 60 galleries and Indigenous art centres from around the country together under the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre roof, shining a light on the Australian art scene.

“It’s so wonderful that everyone is together because it does unite all the Australian galleries in one spot,” says David Flack, fair ambassador and founder of Flack Studios. “It’s such an amazing opportunity to bring it all together and to see the other galleries and how they collect. Every gallery is really thoughtful about who they’re pairing the artists with.”

This year, Flack will join with Melbourne Art Fair’s diverse program of artists and galleries, not just as an ambassador for the fair but as a designer, having constructed a “high camp”, French Riviera-inspired bistro space with Piper-Heidsieck champagne in the central piazza. “The whole thing’s wrapped in old vintage Persian rugs, and then we’ve got palm trees and all this French Riviera outdoor furniture like sun lounges,” Flack says. “I love the idea that you’re laying down on a sun lounge having champagne.”

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Beyond reclining in his escapist bistro installation, Flack is excited to explore Melbourne Art Fair’s extensive roster of artists and galleries. Here are a few of his must-see recommendations:

Julia Gutman – Sullivan+Strumpf
Melbourne and Sydney-based gallery Sullivan+Strumpf has a reputation for showing the work of progressive artists and running a heavy schedule of exhibitions – more than 30 every year. For Melbourne Art Fair, the gallery is exhibiting the works of 2023 Archibald Prize winner Julia Gutman.

“She works with textiles and fabrics, and it’s always sort of revolved around bringing people together,” Flack says. “She’s obviously been included in the Primavera prize, she won the Archibald last year, which is huge, and she’s had multiple residencies around Europe, so I’m excited to see how those experiences have impacted her new work.”

Mark Maurangi Carrol – Nasha
The ability to explore the diverse lives and artistic perspectives of others is integral to Melbourne Art Fair – particularly with this year’s theme of ketherba. In exhibiting the works of Mark Maurangi Carrol, Darlinghurst gallery Nasha is doing just that.

“He draws from childhood experiences in the Cook Islands and in Australia,” says Flack. “He paints in a really interesting way where he’s painting on the reverse of the canvas, using industrial enamel paints, and they bleed through the canvas. And then they almost form this very soft texture on the reverse. They’re quite interesting, quite minimal.”

Tom Polo – Station Gallery
For Flack, Tom Polo’s exhibit courtesy of Melbourne’s Station Gallery will be one not to miss. “His use of colour is just incredible,” Flack says. “He’s famous for using Yves Klein Blue and [his paintings] are very lurid and bright, sometimes very watered down too. He always paints primarily on large panels, so they’re pretty immersive. He's one of those artists that is pushing himself every show, and you can see his evolution as an artist, which I think is really special.”

Howard Arkley – Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art
Howard Arkley’s vivid, airbrushed impressions of Australian suburbia hold a special place in our cultural memory, so this exhibition represents a unique opportunity for Melbourne Art Fair audiences. “Kalli Rolfe has Howard Arkley’s estate and she’s showing works between the ’70s and ’80s,” Flack says. “She’s also showing the last ever painting that he had made – it’s never been exhibited before.”

Augusta Vinall Richardson – The Commercial
Sculpture artist Augusta Vinall Richardson takes a unique approach to form and material that Flack says is well worth exploring in person. “She’s got these amazing sculptures, all cast in aluminium, but they look like stacked cardboard boxes and they’ve got the texture of cardboard boxes,” Flack says. “You know when someone’s using such a mundane kind of inanimate object and it becomes something really beautiful?”

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