SYDNEY CONTEMPORARY 13
19 - 22 SEPTEMBER. 2013
If the rumoured closure of Redfern train station in a bid to cope with the tsunami of 8,000 people trying to get into Carriageworks for Sydney Contemporary 13's Vernissage last Thursday night is even half true, then I think we can confidently say that we have a major new addition to Sydney's art calendar.
It was an incredible 3 days and with an attendance number of over 28,000 people through the doors, an enormous congratulations must go to Tim Etchells, Barry Keldoulis and their incredible team for pulling it off. THANK YOU!
Having taken Monday off to recover from a severe case of AFF (Art Fair Fatigue) I'm now ready to gather my thoughts and share my experiences.
As there is so much to cover, I'm breaking it down, and 'nut shelling' my fair highlights into 3 themes...
1. HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE GALLERIES POPPING THEIR EXHIBITING CHERRY IN SYDNEY
I loved, loved loved seeing my favourite Scottish artist, Callum Innes' work at the booth of Hong Kong's most charming Frenchman, Edouard Malingue. Edouard's Gallery on Queens Road, Central is a haven of art and refined taste and it was an extra treat to be able to catch up with him during his brief time in Sydney.
Paragon Press, London exhibited, in addition to some stunning Anish Kapoor and Gary Hume works, a Grayson Perry etching which, for my money took the prize for SC13 Humour and Wit in Art Award. A truly whimsical experience.
Singapore's Art Plural Gallery was a definite highlight, especially the works of Ian Davenport, Qiu Jie, Fabienne Verdier and Bernar Venet especially his monolithic sculpture which looked as if it had dropped from on high at the entry to Carriageworks. The gallery also enjoyed opening night sales for a Verdier painting (AU$70,000) and also a piece by gallery staple, Pablo Reinoso (AU$46,000).
With galleries in New York, Hong Kong and Singapore, the incredibly dapper Sundaram Tagore didn't hold back with his self named gallery presenting a survey exhibit of his top talents, including, Hiroshi Senju, Kim Joon (Drunken-Royal Copenhagen, sold, AU$17,000), Sohan Qadri (Untitled, sold, AU$71,000) and Robert Polidori.
Katie de Tilly of 10 Chancery Lane, Hong Kong showed a diverse mix of important artists from her stable. My favourite of all her gallery heavy hitters was the poetic Dinh Q. Le (considered one of Vietnam's most significant contemporary artists) whose works explore the notion of layered and fragile memories.
Having fled Vietnam with his family in 1979 to a new life in Los Angeles after heavy fighting broke out between the Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge near his village on the border with Cambodia, Dinh's works comment on 'how memories are recalled and how society archives the experience of human suffering'.
2. JUICY TALENT - IN SEASON NOW!
Armed with the privilege of having experienced the large international art fairs of Frieze, London, Art HK, Art Basel HK and Art Stage, Singapore, where there has usually been a small Australian contingent, I was most excited by the prospect of viewing, in my home town, contemporary Australian art en masse in an international art fair environment alongside strong work from overseas ... Not a lot to ask really!
I HAVE NOT BEEN DISAPPOINTED.
In no particular order, the highlights for me were:
Craig Waddell's charming portraits of birds at Gallery 9. Each one named and lovingly and tenderly depicted in luscious oil paint, scoped onto the canvas like gelato.
I could smell this gallery's booth before I could see the work! Deservedly, his show was almost a complete sell out and included Franceska (AU$7,500) which was acquired by Artbank as well as other pieces to some super swanky corporates.
Black Art Projects installation of Reko Rennie's Black Diamond series was stunningly snapped up, and rightly so (pieces sold at both the AU$7,700 and AU$28,500 level). With a foot in both Melbourne and Milan, moody, edgy and with just the right amount of attitude, I can't wait to see what project Black Art take on next...
Opening Night saw the engaging and delightful Daniel Agdag grinning from ear to ear at MARS Gallery's booth as his incredible, intricately cinematic paper contraptions (AU$4,400 each) were a sell out by 7.30pm.
Daniel's works transported me to the fantastical, industrial gothic film worlds of Fritz Lang, Terry Gilliam and David Lynch. Eccentric Wunderkammer for the 21st century.
Greg Semu's photographs at Alcaston Gallery stopped traffic and I hope this important young artist's career continues its trajectory north. His work Self Portrait with Side of P'ea was one of the first pieces I saw where I literally stopped and stared, amazing.
Leo Silitonga, Director of Jakarta's Umahseni Gallery, exhibited the visually arresting paintings of Ronald Manullang in which he has drawn on both historical and fictionalised elements to enhance the real and imagined events between Indonesia's first President, Soekarno and his 5th wife, the Japanese born Naoko Nemoto.
This gallery was one of the highlights for me and I hope Leo returns to our shores soon with even more work from this regionally significant art community.
Unsurprisingly, Michael Reid showed stella work which sold well. His artists included Joseph McGlennon (AU$8,800 for Thylacine Study No. 3) , Christian Thompson (AU$7,700) and Joan Ross. Total reported sales over the 3 days topped AU$250,000.
Congratulations to Michelle Paterson at .M Contemporary for both strong sales and the visually stunning and soaring installations of South African (and Venice Biennale representative), Lyndi Sale's works. Following a beautiful opening gallery exhibition last month, her suspended laser cut perspex disks at the entry to Carriageworks,
and also at the gallery's booth, where 159 / 295 symbolises the tragic Helderberg air crash in 1987 in which Sale's father was one of the victims, means her growing profile in Australia is now firmly cemented.
3. A FRUITY MEGA-MIX OF EXTRAS I INDULGED IN!
Having extracted myself from the maelstrom of Carriageworks at about 8pm, I headed to the VIP after party at the above mentioned .M Contemporary! Digital media and performative artist, Garth Knight thrilled the VIP guests during a hypnotic performance
piece in which he applied his rope bondage skills to interact and engage with a live model. Knight will be the first Australian artist to exhibit at the gallery when his show, Paradise Lost opens on 15 November. (Disclosure, I am the shows curator)
Those with still an ounce of stamina headed off to the QT Hotel where, word has it, 3am was the time most people turned into pumpkins ...
Friday Chit Chat - Australia v's the rest of the world offered an interesting insight from gallerist Anna Schwartz, Art Advisor, Mark Hughes and collector Becky Sparks.
Hearing Anna was the highlight for me as she drew on her deep wealth of experience. In the panel's view, Australian collectors are not as parochial as one might think, which, if the final tally of sales is any indication, pretty much backs them up!
Saturday afternoons discussion on Whether Sydney was the art capital of Australia should have been so much better than it was. Instead, it was just the same old Melbourne / Sydney rivalry nonsense, complete with a segway into an indulgent speel into public institutions and the regional craft scenes. Not at all my cup of tea...
What was more my cup of tea, actually, make that a soy latte... was earlier in the day at the VIP Brunch, hosted by the gorgeous Ursula Sullivan and Joanna Strumpf at their gallery in Zetland. The sun shone, the coffee brewed, the bubbly flowed and it was wall to wall VIPs at 9.30am. This MUST have been a first given the late night most people had experienced. With the support of VAULT magazine, the panel, chaired by the AFR's Katrina Strickland discussed the notion, The Gallery Is Dead, Long Live The Gallery. Artist Alex Seton, Carriageworks own Lisa Havilah, Collectors Simon Hayman and Terry Wu, as well as Mark Feary from Artspace really nutted out the problems, the issues and opened a window on how the world might look in the future, given the growing involvement of the internet and technologies like 3D printing within the art world.
My main take away was thinking about the concept of buying an Alex Seaton sculpture online, after which, he then sends me a link for me to print out on my 3D printer! It was such great fun that none of us wanted to leave, including Emma Hack, Tim Goodman, Jenny Garber and Satoshi Kinoshita...
Joshua Yeldham's talk, at ArtHouse Gallery's booth, late on Saturday afternoon was spell binding. He spoke generously about his life and art with an economy of words, so richly laced with emotion that he nearly had us all in tears.
If any Australian artist is capable of expressing a sense of place, both externally and internally, then it is Yeldham.
I wish my final talk on Sunday afternoon, Art into Fashion / Fashion into Art had been longer as, having heard the panel dissect various aspects of the art and fashion worlds, I was just starting to formulate some creative and critical thoughts and questions, when the session came to an end. At least I got to hear Akiro Isogawa describe himself as a 'bulls**t artist', at which point, Kylie Kwong, sitting across the aisle from me, nearly fell off her seat!
Was SC13 a success?
Are there a couple of teething problems to iron out? (Don't you just love a mixed metaphor?)
Of course, that's to be expected.
Are Tim Etchells and Barry Keldoulis capable of topping this event in Melbourne next year?
You bet your cashmere socks they are!
(Sale results obtained from various sources)
SYDNEY CONTEMPORARY 13
further visual highlights ...