On the 28th September, on an invitation from Ms. Bronwyn Johnson, the Director of the Melbourne Art Fair (and funded by Australia China Council) I landed in Melbourne, traversing from mid autumn to mid spring in just 15 hours. Although it was still chilly, the city of Melbourne was overcome with a strong flavour of contemporary art; the eye-catching green ads in forms of posters, billboards, and banners were easily visible across the city. Hundreds of gallerists from around the world had come to Melbourne to showcase thousands of works to a growing art audience from Australia.
From September 29 to October 3 2004, the 9th Melbourne Art Fair, Australia's premier international contemporary art fair, was held at the world heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building in the Carlton Garden Museum Complex, with the National Museum of Melbourne as its neighbour.
In May 2003 the Australian Commercial Galleries Association transferred ownership of the Melbourne Art Fair to the independent entity the Melbourne Art Fair Foundation, whose mission is to promote contemporary art and ethical representation of living artists, through the biennial art event. Participation of the gallery in the fair is by invitation only. The opening of the Fair on the 29th September attracted an audience of more than two thousand audiences, which far exceeded the anticipated numbers.
In the afternoon of the opening day, an art forum attended by two hundred people was staged in the auditorium of The National Gallery of Victoria, where six speakers delivered talks. I was one of the speakers and was joined by Rhana Devenport as moderator, as well as, Chris Saines, Director of Auckland Art Gallery, and Sarah Tutton, Visual Art Manager of Asialink.
The eighty one galleries participating in the fair were not only from all the major Australian cities, but also from Japan, China, Hong Kong, Germany, New Zealand and Korea, to name a few. I was surprised to see that there were no galleries from either Singapore or Taiwan participating. Besides the gallery booths 13 magazines were given booths, such as, Art and Australia, Art Monthly, Artlink, Eyeline, and Asian Art News, as well as, 9 projects rooms dedicated to non-profit art institutions.
Beijing-based Red Gate Gallery featured works by Huang Yan, Guan Wei, Sheng Qi, Cang Xin, Chi Peng, and Tony Scott. Most of the works were well received by the audience and collectors. More than 20 works by Red Gate artists were sold, making Red Gate Gallery one of the best selling galleries in the fair. Brian Wallace, Director of the Red Gate, informed me that most of his clients were new, and that there was a growing tendency towards photography works by younger artists. For Brian this was an indication of the increasing interest and appreciation of contemporary Chinese art in Australia.
Beijing/Frankfurt based La Gallery presented works by Chinese artists such as Cheng Wenbo, Ren Xiaolin, Shen Liang and Ma Liuming, some of whose works had never before been shown in Australia. Art Beatus and John Batten Gallery, both Hong Kong based galleries featured works by Luo Brothers, Ji Dachun, Qin Feng, Shen Jiawei, Qiu Shihua, Sara Tse, Ma Tselin, Wang Xunlaing, Yang Yi, Feng Zhenquan, and Jack Zhou. and the latter, Godwin Bradbeer, Ralph Kiggell, and Michael Wolf.
Galleries from Tokyo and Seoul were also very visible at the fair, exhibiting a range of works from ceramics, painting and photography to ink.
The project rooms introduced non-commercial institutions, such as Australia Center for the Moving Images (ACM), a new Melbourne-based art institution housed in the recently renovated Federation Square; Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), the pre-eminent Victorian gallery for the exhibition of contemporary photo-based arts and, Gertrude Contemporary Art Space who was exhibiting the impressive works of Harriet Parsons. Established in 1983 as a non-profit contemporary art complex of gallery spaces and studio facilities, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces provides professional support to contemporary artists through exhibition, studio, cultural exchange, and public programs.
One of the most inspiring projects was Tom Muller World Passport, which consisted of seamlessly rendered passports with a difference; they are for a borderless globe. Since its inception in 1999, the passport has evolved to included six languages, and now has thousands of holders from the Ukraine to South Africa.
The Art Fair also featured public lectures, exhibitions, performances, art publications, guided tours, tailored travel and accommodation packages and social events. The Melbourne International Festival was taking place simultaneously, turning the entire city into an international art scene.
- Mon, 1 Nov 2004