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Melbourne Art Fair

The 2012 Melbourne Art Fair speaks to many audiences, Marg Hearn reports

Melbourne Art Fair


August 3rd, 2012

Programing for the Melbourne Art Fair 2012, trumpeted as the premier fair and exposition of contemporary visual art in the Asia Pacific alongside the Sydney Biennale and the Queensland Asia Pacific Triennial, echoingly realised its ambition of engaging with a broad spectrum of people.

A two-year build up to the biennial event’s 13th incarnation, ensured that the opening night party and fair preview – Melbourne Art Fair 2012 Vernissage – at Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday 1 August –attracted gallery directors nationally and internationally, high-end collectors, corporate sector identities, artists and art buffs alike. Vernissage and the ensuing four-day program generated substantial national and international commercial and critical attention for the 70 selected galleries and 900 artists.

“While it’s a trade fair and galleries are selling work, it’s also a curated exhibition of contemporary art – the galleries curate their shows and artists are often working specifically for the fair,” explained Laetitia Prunetti, director of Melbourne Art Foundation, presenters of the event.

“Home-maker #5: The Bedroom 2012”, Oil on linen – Sandra Hill

The very considered curatorial process assured fair visitors were treated to work across a variety of mediums – painting, sculpture, photography, installations and multimedia artworks emanating from the best contemporary artists in Australia and beyond, emphasised Prunetti’s co-director Emilly-Rose Davis.

The idea of making art accessible was clearly at play. A new addition this year was the free and thoughtfully curated extended Lecture and Forum Program that ran in parallel to the fair.

“We’re also talking about contemporary art as a general dialogue in our society – the broad program is all about inserting contemporary art into everyone’s life,” said Prunetti.

For the independent artists who were selected in conjunction with not for profit artist run spaces –to participate in the Project Rooms – it was a priceless opportunity to show their work to the estimated 30,000-strong viewing audience. The Project Rooms have had a proud history since their inception in 2002, of providing a platform for participants to gallery representation or having work curated into significant shows.

“For artists who don’t have representation – if that’s what they’re looking for – it’s crucial to show alongside their represented peers,” Prunetti said.

A showstopper was the intriguing large-scale sculpture, Clouds, by Ian Burns, the Melbourne Art Foundation Commission Artist for 2012.

“I want my work to both stand about and look like it belongs,” said Burns – an Australian artist based in New York who was recently named in the ’Future Greats’ edition of Art Review Magazine (UK).

Ian Burns with Art Gallery of South Australia Director Nick Mitzevich, in front of Ian Burns’ work Clouds

Burns’ early training in Engineering preceding Fine Arts is evident in Clouds, which he said, took certain design clues from the geometry of the historic Royal Exhibition building – namely the semi circular forms and ceiling truss work as inspiration. Of its myriad components, “everything is functional in what it does – nothing is decorative on its own,” he declared.

Did Burns know what he was going to create from the outset?

“I’m a great believer in studio practice, it’s all about the studio process and that sort of evolution,” he said, adding that refinement was still taking place two days ahead of its unveiling.

Anna Schwartz of Anna Schwartz Gallery who represents Burns in Australia, aptly likened Clouds to “a metaphor for looking at art itself – for discovering meaning in art.”

True to its modus operandi of promoting contemporary art and the ethical representation of living artists – Melbourne Art Foundation, a not for profit entity, takes no commission from art transactions at the fair nor does it participate in the secondary art market. Melbourne Art Fair stands alone as an event not only in size and scale in Australia but also in the direct support it provides to the livelihood of Australian artists.


Melbourne Art Fair, Royal Exhibition Building, Carlton Gardens, Melbourne 1-5 August, 2012



Hero image caption: Flock Lobster 2012, Jud Wimhurst

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