I’m not sure there’s a busier place for art lovers than Sydney right now. Three major art fairs, the Archibald still hanging in the Art Gallery of NSW and White Rabbit Gallery opening their new exhibition all in the same week means there’s lots of competition for aesthetes attention this weekend. Yesterday alone saw the official openings of Sydney Contemporary, The Other Art Fair and Paradise Bitch which aside from anything else means the art scene is suffering one massive hangover today. At least we’re all in this together, right?
So let’s start with The Other Art Fair, Australia’s version of the hugely successful UK artist-led initiative that aspires to connect emerging artists directly with prospective buyers.
Presented at aMBUSH Project Space in Chippendale’s Central Park, it’s a boutique experience of 80 artists specially selected by a committee of contemporary art experts including Paris Neilson of White Rabbit Gallery, Megan Robson from the MCA and art consultant Virginia Wilson.
This marks the first time The Other Art Fair has ventured outside of the UK and the show has transferred well to its Antipodean location. With a blue print lifted from previous fairs in London and Bristol the event is tightly run and pretty slick for a debut event, and the atmosphere is suitably celebratory and enthusiastic. It’s not as big and shiny as its big sister Sydney Contemporary, but that’s not what it hankers to be anyway. There are no gargantuan works or even more gargantuan stands, no big name artists or high profile dealers. The artists are representing themselves and operating without the ‘wheeler dealer’ element, which makes for a much more intimate and relaxed environment for everyone.
Having a selection committee to whittle down the 400 artist applications to 80 exhibitors means that the work available has, to a certain extent, been quite strictly curated. As a result, there’s a lot of good art on view and a good balance of mediums including painting, textile art, sculpture, photography, mixed media and print making. And while the relatively small stand size and space constraints of the venue disallow any huge ‘wow’ moments, there are still some real standouts.
New Zealand artist Tyrone Layne’s peoplescapes are fresh and perceptively drawn observations of human behaviour. These oil on board works are really unlike anything else being produced, both in subject and composition. In a fair with a lot of talent on display, he’s the one to watch.
Archibald finalist Kim Leutwyler’s portraits are high impact and startling in both colour and subject matter, but this fair has allowed her the chance to balance that against some subtle watercolours and small scale works, adding depth to what will no doubt become a well known art practice. If Leutwyler ends the weekend without representation, I’ll be left wondering (not for the first time) what on earth the commercial galleries are thinking.
Pamela Leung is probably the warmest person I’ve ever met, which makes sense considering her booth is swathed in fiery red and orange! Though she has lived in Australia for forty years now, her Hong Kong roots heavily influence her art, which is both visually stunning and profound in its message. Also, the woman must be aging backwards, because she told me she’s 64 but she quite literally doesn’t have a single wrinkle on her lovely face. Oh to have those genes!
The Other Art Fair was a daunting premise for many of the artists I spoke to in that it removed the protective buffer of the studio, putting them directly in the firing line of the public and their opinions of their work. Not every artist has the confidence required to represent themselves effectively in that situation, and it was pretty clear some were more comfortable than others. But if the shyer artists can get around their own insecurities and thrust themselves upon the public, then it’s a great way for them to connect and ensure that the person best able to convey a work’s importance, ie the artist themselves, is the one doing the talking.
That to me sounds a far more authentic and meaningful exchange than many of the transactions happening elsewhere in the art world this weekend, wouldn’t you say?
The Other Art Fair
Level Three, Central Park
Until 13 September 2015