Since launching in 2013, Sydney Contemporary has propelled the quiet evolution of Sydney’s often-underrated art scene – in a way that’s stayed true to our easy-going, relaxed nature. While art fairs are typically playgrounds for prominent celebrity artists, gallerists, art dealers, and well-heeled collectors, Sydney Contemporary has worked hard to create a more inclusive, expansive experience in and around the fair.

“[Sydney] is the perfect place for a contemporary art fair; and its warm, enthusiastic embrace to date of this event is not only indicative of its lust for the new, but also its growing love of creativity in general – and in particular, its own creativity,” says fair director, Barry Keldoulis.

For its third edition, the fair will feature presentations from some 90 galleries from Australia and the Pacific Rim, including New Zealand and South East Asia, as well as Sydney Art Week – a sidelining series of events designed to light up other parts of the city.

Here are our top program picks:

Opening Night
The official opening party for Sydney Contemporary at Carriageworks is open to all. The ticketed event is a chance to navigate gallery booths, drink in hand. You’ll also witness Performance Contemporary, a set of eight performance pieces by Australian artists, curated by Emma Price.

Keep an eye out for Claudia Nicholson’s stunning saw-dust carpet, drawn from South American traditions. As part of her performance, the artist will eat a raw lamb’s heart to embody the narrative of the “savage”.

If you can stomach something after Nicholson’s performance, the fair has pop-up restaurants from Billy Kwong and Kitchen by Mike, as well as a Glenfiddich whisky bar and a Petaluma wine bar. And there’s not just art to see – music has been curated by VICE, with a live performance from Sydney musician Marcus Whale from Collarbones, and another from visual artists turned musical duo, Ginger and the Ghost.

September 7, 5pm–9pm. Tickets from $40.

Night Cap series at The Old Clare
The fair’s Night Cap after-party series returns as part of the broader Sydney Art Week program. Hosted at The Old Clare, there will be three Night Caps over the course of the week, each curated by a different artist. First is Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran’s His Big Important Birthday – a sort of anti-birthday celebration with cake, music and drinks, as well as karaoke and a large-scale portrait of Nithiyendran by artist Jason Phu.

You’ll need a secret password for 4A’s party on Friday night. Titled VVVVVVVVVIP Party for Everyone, it is a spin on the velvet rope, VIP-only affair, and hosted by artist Uji Handoko Eko Saputro, aka Hahan. While a little ambiguous, the event description hints that you may be covered in gold glitter. The final Night Cap will be hosted by Birmingham Street Studio artists on Saturday night.

September 6, 8 and 9, 9pm–12am at The Old Clare Hotel.

Talk Contemporary
While panel discussions can seem like a stale part of any festival program – Sydney Contemporary has pulled out some deeper talking points this year that will make for good listening. On the program is a debate on post-porn art, feminism, and sex in the age of the internet, moderated by Art Space director Alexie Glass-Kantor. There’s an exploration of power, money, and art, inspired by German performance artist Joseph Beuys’s 1979 work Kunst = Kapital.

There’s also a more meditative discussion within the fair’s Glenfiddich whisky bar on the role of art and the consolation of culture. School of Life philosopher Tim Dean and anthropologist Sumant Badami will host the talk.

Various dates throughout the fair.

Sydney Contemporary will run September 7–10, 2017.