Words – J Forsyth

Photos – J Forsyth

Melbourne Art Fair 2012, Royal Exhibition Buildings, Carlton Gardens

Melbourne Art Fair is a large and well-oiled machine in the art world. For months prior to the recent event, our inbox at Melbourne Arts Club was full with emails from the fair itself, as well as the many galleries exhibiting as part of the event.

Initially, I wasn’t clear (even after all those emails) how it worked and thought you needed to buy a pass for the whole five days. The price was high and gave off a very elitist vibe. However, I realised the tickets were $30 and available to the public, and not just arts clubs. After doing some research to decide whether I wanted to part with my hard earned thirty bucks, I learned that the Melbourne Art Foundation – responsible for the fair – is a national not-for-profit organisation established to promote contemporary art and the ethical representation of living artists. Still unconvinced, I went to my older sister for advice. “You love art. Of course you should go,” she said.

So there I was, Saturday morning, slightly foggy from the previous night’s fun, slowly getting my shit together. For those who don’t know me, I spend a lot of time walking around in circles, looking confused, being late or arriving without something imperative.

This morning was no exception.

Afternoon hit and I finally picked up my camera (there was much mental debate about which camera, lens and camera bag), got on my bike and made a detour past La Porchetta in Carlton North. Really, nothing says highbrow art day like a chain pizza restaurant super special and a Coke. In my defence, the Coke was served in a glass bottle.

The brain fog lifted as I filled myself with pizza and I was ready to go. It was an amazing Saturday afternoon by Melbourne winter standards as I rode between the Melbourne Museum and Royal exhibition buildings. A great sense of achievement came over me. Again, those who don’t know me, a sense of achievement can be enough for me to turn around and go home. Job done! But I soldiered on. And by soldiered and I mean walked normally.

But back to the fair. This was the 13th biennial Melbourne Art Fair, which according to the fair, is Australia’s leading contemporary art fair, featuring over 70 leading Australian and international galleries, representing over 900 living artists.

The fair also featured project rooms showcasing the work of a new generation of artists, presented in association with independent contemporary art spaces from across Australia and New Zealand, including:
•Major Commissions
•Project Rooms featuring Melbourne’s artist run initiatives and independent and emerging artists
•Public forums and lectures featuring artists, curators and international guests
•International curator and collector programs
•Guided tours
•Publications; and
•The celebrated opening night Vernissage.

Now, I can’t speak for everyone, but as soon as I enter an event like this, my temperature rises 30 degrees and my bag becomes heavier that a McDonald’s addicts arse. This was no exception. After removing my cardigan, I started to regret wearing an oversized, slightly holey black Kmart t-shirt. I didn’t notice anyone else stripping off, and I suspect that perhaps their blazers and cardigans were integral to their overall appearances. Or maybe they just weren’t hung over.

As I wondered into the beautiful space that is the Royal exhibition buildings, art hit me at every turn. Across both floors, make-shift galleries showcased the best of the best, and boy it was good.
The notables for me were:
•Adelaide’s Hugo Mitchell Gallery, displaying large black and white Trent Parke photographs.
•Sydney’s Chalk House Gallery
Helen Gory Gallerie Melbourne
Sofia Gannon Gallery displaying Julia Deville’s animals on plates
ARNDT Berlin
Mossenson Galleries and Sandra Hill’s works
Edwina Corlette Gallery

My outright favourite was Gertrude Contemporary’s Paul Yore instillation. The bright colours of the hand stitched tapestry saying “fuck the police.” Only after noticing this and the children gathering around the beautiful lights of the surrounding instillation, did I see a sign saying “Not for children”.

Gallerysmith and Richard Martin Art were also noted down in my moleskin diary. I can only assume that I thought they were worthy of the pen ink at the time.

Not to trivialise the event with a review on appearance, but everywhere Melbourne Arts Club goes and everything we do, we notice certain types of crowds. Often, the art world has been called pretentious, stuffy and elitist. I did not feel this on my solo journey through artland. Of course, there were the straight fringed, square glasses wearing women spanning a couple of generations, and not as many of the beard and bun glitterati as I expected. There were older dears with very new lips discussing the effectiveness of the “medium” and people like me enjoying a Quilmes. This last group may just be drunks, which is also common in the art world.
As I pondered the crowd and the volume of bespectacled people (myself included), I did think “Are we trying so hard to find a meaning that we are all going blind?” While drinking my Quilmes (which if you are unaware, is the Argentine version of Carlton Draught), I pondered my notes, the people, the art, the building and thought of a way to sum it all up; Art, it’s not for everyone but yes it fucking is, if you have 30 bucks.

Melbourne is a city with an amazing reputation for art. Melbourne loves art, embraces it and displays it in a range of ways. The Melbourne Art fair is but another amazing avenue for this expression. Art is what you make of it; there are things we do and don’t like in everything in life. So go forth, look at stuff and like it or don’t. Just enjoy yourself while you do it. You never know, you may be inspired to make your own arty masterpiece.