There are approximately 1700 artworks for sale in Sydney Contemporary’s online version of its extensive art fair – and you don’t need to be an expert to pick up a painting or sculpture for under $100. The 11-day fair has a sliding price scale, so you can select your budget and search for ceramics, photography, textiles and other works by 400 or so artists represented by 80-plus galleries.
Don’t know where to start? Broadsheet asked seven very different art lovers – from one of the country’s best chefs to a leading fashion designer – about what they look for when buying art.
Abdul Abdullah, multidisciplinary artist
I look for works that excite and challenge me – this could be what they are communicating or the special ways they are communicating it. I look for artists who consistently contribute to a critical dialogue. I look at artists’ CVs. I also look for works that bring me joy. I’m inspired by art that offers a unique perspective. I like beautiful things too, and I look for art that will be as exciting in 50 years as it is now. Shit, if I could own a Juan Davila I would be pretty stoked.
Abdullah’s picks: Juan Davila’s Ralco, 2016; Paul Yore’s When Will It End, 2021; Julie Dowling’s Galadya, 2018.
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Benjamin Law, writer, journalist, columnist and screenwriter
When buying art, I look for a combination of playfulness, provocation and profundity. Art that is beautiful, but also has something to say. Art that unfurls presumptions, explodes pre-existing lazy assumptions about history, politics and identity. And, of course, art that has been made with care and passion.
Law’s picks: Atong Atem’s Banksia (large), 2021; Betty Kuntiwa Pumani’s Antara, 2020; Tony Albert’s You Wreck Me #56, 2020; Lindy Lee’s Black Dew, 2021.
Bianca Spender, fashion designer
I look for creativity, form and layers you can unfold each time you look at it. I seek out creations that evoke the senses and a deep emotional response. I look for originality, a unique perspective, and a point of view that makes you think or see the world in a different way. In paintings and drawings, I want to be able to feel the etching and the paint dripping from the canvas and I’m drawn to sculptures you can touch for a tactile sensation that adds a third dimension.
Spender’s picks: Graziela Guardino’s In Between, 2021; Daniel Boyd’s Untitled (SPLDDMNDX), 2021; Joshua Yeldham’s Mangrove Web, 2021; Robert “Tommy” Pau’s Over Rooled, 2020; Tim Silver’s Untitled (Heartbeats) JM, 2021; Tamara Dean’s Taking Aim, 2021.
Barry Keldoulis, director of Sydney Contemporary
I think there’s an element of the Kinsey scale to buying art; 10 per cent buy purely for investment and 10 per cent acquire purely for love. But most people are somewhere in between. If buying as an investment, you should buy what you love – or at least “like a lot”, as you are probably going to physically encounter it often. Once something’s grabbed your eye, check the artist’s CV and bio. Look for exhibition history, collections, prizes and awards, education (though not essential, it’s certainly not bad if they’ve been to a good art school), and originality. Recently I’ve added a sixth, personal integrity. But if you really, really like it, you should buy it. Your support of the artist will ultimately help cement their reputation and support their practice.
Keldoulis’s picks: Anna Eggert’s Wetlands, 2021; Dan Elborne’s Remains S4.13–S4.15, 2021; Hannalie Taute’s I can only soften this evil curse…, 2021; Jenna Lee’s White Grass Tree 1, 2021.
Hannah Tribe, principal designer, Tribe Studio Architects
There is a kind of paradoxical pleasing discomfort when you fall in love with an artwork. Maybe it’s a bit difficult, a bit unsettling; it should ask you to think and feel, and maybe the thinking and feeling are out of balance or at odds. The impulse to make and share things is one of the most inspiring parts of our humanity, and if those things are clever or beautiful or moving or funny or delightful or melancholy or challenging or all of the above, then I’m in.
Tribe’s picks: Gretchen Albrecht, Study for “After Goya – Maria Teresa in White”, 2020; Mitch Cairns’s Self-Portrait w/ Incoming Idea, 2021; Jude Rae, SL452, 2021; Linda Marrinon’s Archeological Dig in Syria, 2021.
Wesley Enoch, writer, director, QUT Indigenous chair of Creative Industries
I look at skill, story and style. I want to see a level of craft being expressed in the work. I am attracted to the narrative it says about our society, either in the work or in the artist’s story. I want to see a strong aesthetic language – beauty or ugliness.
Enoch’s picks: Noel McKenna’s April 27th, 2021; Jenny Watson’s Girl With White Cat, Blonde Hair, Blue Dress, Purple Stockings, Pink Shoes & Black Handbag, 2021; Nellie Ngampa Coulthard’s Tjuntala Ngurangka (Country With Acacia Wattle), 2020; Antoinette O’Brien’s Pearl, 2021.
Kylie Kwong, chef and owner, Lucky Kwong
I love culturally diverse art, because the more voices we have around the table, the richer, deeper and better our lives become. I love art in which one can see, feel and sense the artist’s strong spirit and voice. I love art that is not just aesthetically pleasing, but also expresses a social or cultural statement. I am guided by my emotional response to the art first and foremost; I buy for love, not for investment – I appreciate the two are very different.
Kwong’s picks: Karla Dickens’s Warrior Woman XVII, 2017; Alan Constable’s Not Titled, 2021; Beverly Burton’s Ngayuku Ngura, 345-21TA, Tjala Arts, 2021; Abdullah MI Syed’s Currency of Love (CLS9-2021-ILS200 –V1) Israeli New Shekel 200, 2021.
Explore Sydney Contemporary runs from November 11 to 21.