“Art fairs have developed a lot over the last few decades,” says Sydney Contemporary director Barry Keldoulis. “I remember when I first took an artist to an art fair back in the early 2000s, they were kind of horrified that their babies were being shown in this 'meat market'.”
It’s fair to say that Sydney Contemporary isn’t a “meat market” – it’s less a trade show than a celebration of the art community, including talks, performances and massive installations. From September 8-11 at Carriageworks, galleries get the chance to not only show their work to serious art collectors and institutional curators, but also to thousands of members of the public. “That’s the thing about the fair – most good work still needs to be seen in the flesh to be appreciated,” says Keldoulis.
You’ll find a range of mediums represented, like painting, photography and sculpture, whether you’re looking to buy or not. “You see work from not only your city but from around the country and internationally, and you can get a sense of what the trends are,” says Keldoulis. In the last few years, for instance, he says there’s been a noticeable “surge” in the popularity of ceramics.
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With more than 90 galleries and 450 artists to browse, in addition to a packed interactive program, there’s a lot to take in. We asked Keldoulis to give us his guide to the fair.
NFTs and unsolved art theft mysteries
For a discussion of the hot topics in the contemporary art world, make a beeline for Talk Contemporary. “The buzzword of the last couple of years has been NFTs, and we’ve got a talk called ‘NFTs: Fizzle or Sizzle?’” says Keldoulis. It looks at the potential for the artistic expression side of the equation to blossom now that speculative investment is less hyped in the wake of the recent crypto-currency crash.
Other talks include Hungry Eyes, which looks at the current state of collecting and speculates on future directions of print, artists books and zines collections – especially in the age of mass digital consumption, and Unsolved Art Thefts: A Journey Through the Mystery and Complexities of Art Crime, which looks at the shadowy world of art theft.
Paper’s art on a budget
Paper is a section of Sydney Contemporary that showcases art using the material via drawings, watercolour, limited-edition prints, artists books and zines, as well as it being a starting point for budding buyers looking for lower price points. “Paper is almost like a fair within the fair,” says Keldoulis. “We have over twenty printmakers and galleries that work with works on paper, and a series of talks and demonstrations.” Included in the series will be a demonstrations of 16th Century Japanese woodblock techniques, letterpress printing on a vintage benchtop 1950s printing press, and a series of workshops by live and experimental printmaking performance collective Performprint, who will be on hand to showcase spoken word printmaking rhetoric, skateboard wheel printing and printmaking stunts.
Emerging artists at Future
There’s no shortage of stunning works by established artists, but Sydney Contemporary specifically makes a point of creating space for those just starting out, too.
“The Future sector is young galleries, often representing emerging artists,” says Keldoulis.” Highlights include first time exhibitor Mangkaja Arts presenting emerging Indigenous artists from four art centres in the Kimberley Region, and Michael Bugelli, a young gallerist from Hobart on the rise.
There will also be Jacob Hoerner Galleries presenting new HDV stop motion animation work by Rebecca Agnew titled Infinite West, and Onespace Gallery will present two First nations artists, Elisa Jane Carmichael and Teho Ropeyarn. Carmichael offers a beautiful collection of cyanotypes on cotton, incorporating elements of her saltwater country using shells, sand, saltwater, and hand-woven elements, while Ropeyarn is a printmaker who draws from the sky, land, and sea of his country in the most northern part of Queensland to create works of significant scale.
Very furry installations
Sydney Contemporary’s installations – known this year as Amplify – offer the chance to see art on a massive scale. “It’s an opportunity for the artist to show their capacity to work at a scale that would be appropriate for a corporate collection or an institution,” says Keldoulis.
“There’s a wonderful and rather enormous installation by Kathy Temin of a sort of white, fake fur forest. There’s a beautiful paper moon – a two-and-a-half-metre-diameter moon by Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healy which is made up of Japanese manga comics.”
Performance art at sunset
“Not a lot of fairs have performance as part of their offerings,” says Keldoulis. “Partly because most fairs are very commercial in their orientation and performance art isn’t seen as having a commercial aspect to it. We see Sydney Contemporary as a whole-of-scene affair.”
In championing performance art, Sydney Contemporary is featuring works by artists including Weizen Ho, who will perform at sunset on the Thursday and Friday, and Rakini Devi. “She’s looking across both Eastern and Western traditions at the way that the human body is sanctified,” says Keldoulis.
Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Sydney Contemporary.
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