September 20, 2013

Last night’s grand opening of the inaugural Sydney Contemporary Art Fair was an unmitigated success! The buzz could be felt blocks away, as throngs of smartly-dressed collectors descended upon the massive 19th century building, sexy moths to the flame of art. I’ve been to a lot of art fairs, all around the world, and can safely say that this one was pretty terrific. The fit out of the Carriageworks was top-notch – the white trade-fair style booths broken up by chunks of the original industrial architecture and graphic light installations. All the organisers – ownership, management and advisory – were walking around with big smiles on their faces, as were many of the gallerists. Red dots were popping up all over the place – rare, really on an opening night (most collectors prefer to come back and consider the choice they made in the thrill of an opening night). But not really surprising, given the quality of work on offer. In terms of the big, institutional installations, Candice Breitz’ Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon) at Anna Schwartz Gallery is astonishingly beautiful – a 25-channel video installation of ardent Lennon fans singing a-capella to tracks from Lennon’s Beatles breakaway album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Compelling. Equally mesmerising, though from a totally different perspective is the show of Wanjina paintings at Tim Klingender Gallery. Those big, black pools of eyes in these ancient figures feel out-of-time, spiritual. And for edgy European contemporary work, London’s Paragon Art Publishers have a savvy selection of artist’s prints, from the likes of Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Dinos & Jake Chapman (including those space-Gothic figures that featured as embroideries in Louis Vuitton’s menswear this season 😉 and It Boy de jour, Jonathan Yeo, whose painted portraits of fashion and cultural figures (from Sienna Miller to Rupert Murdoch) seem to have taken up the mantle of Lucien Freud for Generation Y. Great entry-level prices, too! That’s just a quick snap shot of first impressions. I’m heading back out to Carriageworks for a more relaxed tour of the show. Stay tuned!

Author: Nick tobias