International art fairs occupy an increasingly influential place in the global market. These high profile events are at once social playgrounds bringing together galleries, artists, the art media and collectors from around the world, making major (and not so major) pieces of contemporary art accessible to those interested in making purchases. Fairs are also great way to quickly survey the scene of who’s who among artists to watch and admire.
Art Basel Hong Kong wrapped up in March this year with 70,000 visitors. The last Sydney Contemporary attracted 32,000 attendees; the 2015 Tokyo Art Fair had 44,000 people; Art Beijing Contemporary Art Fair brought in 40,000 people; and Arte BA – a staggering 110,000.
Now it’s Auckland’s turn, and to give the event a trans-Tasman character, four exceptional Australian artists will be on display. They are Clare Milledge, Melissa Coote, Janet Laurence, and Newell Harry.
Represented at the Fair by the Commercial, a Sydney-based gallery, Clare Milledge’s work is presented as part of a diverse group of accomplished mid-career artists. Milledge, a lecturer at UNSW Art & Design, creates what she terms “total environment installations” that can feature painted glass, performances, textiles, wall paintings, costumes and sculptures.
UNSW Art & Design graduate, Melissa Coote, is represented by Fox Jensen, a Sydney gallery, which operates two different exhibition spaces and has recently rebranded its Auckland gallery with the same name. Occupying booth 7D, Coote, known as much for her crusty charcoal granite layered paintings as for her experimental sculptures and bronze casts, joined the ranks of 8 other artists from Europe, America, and Australasia, including Imi Knooebel, Winston Roeth, Günter Umberg, Geoff Thornley, Tomislav Nikolic, and Jude Rae.
Always a stellar draw-card, Janet Laurence, is represented by Dominik Mersch. In addition to being a recipient of Rockefeller and Churchill fellowships, an Australian War Memorial Artist, a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales with works held in key collections throughout Australia, Laurence is a UNSW Art & Design graduate.
Newell Harry, an artist who explores what it is to be an outsider in his slogan paintings and object-based installations, is represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. He is one of a chosen few including David Noonan, Tracey Moffatt, and Bill Henson to find their way to New Zealand on behalf of the gallery. Widely exhibited across Australia, Harry, a UNSW Art & Design graduate, joined the ranks of established artists with his 2015 selection in the 56th Venice Biennale’s International Art Exhibition, All the World’s Futures.
With a little help from their trans-Tasman friends, organisers of the Auckland Art Fair think they’ve got the right mix this year to ensure event success.