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An outrageous art fair

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Rhonda Dredge

It was a pleasure to stride into the airy rooms of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) at South Wharf during February in search of art.

Trendsetters and critics were on the prowl and platform sandals were big in terms of footwear.

The annual Art Fair is the place to be seen and to catch up with friends.

Even the cynical assistants of jaded gallerists were smiling at visitors instead of acting bored.

“This is the first large gathering of galleries and artists since the beginning of the pandemic,” said one.

“We’ve been very careful,” said another.

Some find the annual Art Fair too commercial but this year the aim was to be memorable.

Tolarno Galleries was showing Bad
Biology, large colourful sculptures by Christopher Langton.

His last exhibition Colony was prophetic of the pandemic and bought by collector Charlie Xiao to show in China.

“These are more organic,” gallerist Tina Douglas said.

Daine Singer was showing some punky little ceramic-cum-painting constructions by Kate Tucker that were clever and strong by not being too referential.

And gallerist Nicholas Thompson was enjoying the venue for the Art Fair. The last one two years ago was held in a tent. “The walls were a bit wobbly,” he said.

He was showing paintings by Rhys Lee from Birregurra that looked familiar, which was not surprising since the painter takes famous works and uses them as inspiration.

One is based on a Picasso painting and with talent like that to work from, no wonder Lee is confident about his line work.

“He’s interested in colour and pulls things out of pop culture,” Nicholas said.

So, what was the most memorable thing about the 2022 Art Fair, one in which galleries were told to limit their stands to one artist?

Did this strategy encourage memory to prosper with not too many artists to digest and give a more serious note to the anything-goes fair aesthetic?

The honour of being outrageous, usually bestowed on the New Zealanders who couldn’t come this year, goes to the bubbles for costing $22 a pop •

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