In Arts + Entertainment

Roam The Establishment At An Alternative Kind Of Art Fair

Galleries from across Australia, New Zealand and beyond are asking us to engage with artworks in an intimate, domestic setting.

Whether at an open house or the pages of an interiors magazine, Sydneysiders love having a stickybeak around someone else’s living quarters. Checking out the items others choose to surround themselves with, and how they arrange them, is compelling and inspirational in equal measure.

Now, that impulse has been incorporated into a glamorous event. Spring 1883 is a hotel-based art fair established in 2014 by Melbourne gallerists Geoff Newton of Neon Parc and Vikki McInnes and Kate Barber of Sarah Scout Presents, with art advisor Vasili Kaliman. The art fair was launched in 2014 at Melbourne’s Hotel Windsor – with its sumptuous aesthetic fondly recalling a bygone era – before making its inaugural Sydney appearance at the slick Establishment Hotel the following year.

Spring 1883 takes inspiration from New York’s Gramercy Park Art Fair and sees galleries from across Australia, New Zealand and beyond take over hotel suites to allow visitors to experience artworks in an intimate, domestic setting (and imagine them in their own homes). A close encounter with both artwork and gallerists allows visitors, who might be intimidated by the usual white-cube gallery environment, to meet and ask questions in a casual setting.

Neon Parc Spring 1883

Neon Parc Spring 1883, 2015, installation view. Photo: Zan Wimberley

Diane Singer Spring 1883, installation view. Photo:Zan Wimberley

It’s not only fun for audiences, but for galleries too. The founders set out to create a fair they would want to participate in. In other words, a fair ‘by galleries, for galleries’. Spring 1883 happens at the same time as the long-running Melbourne Art Fair and the newer Sydney Contemporary with the ultimate aim of bridging the gap between traditional art fairs and more contemporary artist-gallery-collaborations that present work in new and interesting ways.

“One is based on a large format event which appeals to broad group of arts enthusiasts,” says Newton. “The second is a much more bespoke, curated platform for ideas and nuanced presentation of art.”

While both models are evolving with the times, Newton sees a shift “in how galleries are working together to form new alliances from which to collectively present works and drive an economy for art”.

Ronnie van Hout, spring 1883

Ronnie van Hout, Pointing Figure, 2017. Photo: courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery

Around 70 per cent of the 24 galleries represented at Spring 1883 this year have participated in the past – galleries who share ‘similar aesthetic and conceptual ideals’ have been invited by the co-founders. It’s a quality over quantity approach; whether you’re new to the art scene or a regular gallery-goer, the fair will provide an opportunity to see how these galleries take up the challenge of presenting work beyond the white cube.

Several local galleries will be moving into The Establishment for the weekend; the uncanny self-portraits of Ronnie van Hout will occupy Darren Knight Gallery’s room, while the work of sculptors Irene Perez Hernandez and Juan Pablo Plazas will be exhibited in the General Store’s Sydney suite.

Spring1883 will also showcase artists who’re represented by a slew of well-known Melbourne galleries. Sarah Scout Presents will showcase works by several artists including Claire Lambe, whose unsettling sculptures and installations have recently been on show at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art . Murray White Room will display the lenticular prints of Polly Borland featuring Gwendoline Christie (of Game Of Thrones fame) as their subject.

PollyBorland, Spring 1883

PollyBorland, Untitled (red and pink) 2016, 60.5 x 51cm. Photo: courtesy the artist and Murray White Room

Our friends across the ditch have long punched above their weight when it comes to contemporary art. New Zealand galleries Ivan Anthony, Michael Lett and Robert Heald Gallery will occupy hotel suites, and the international presence will be further bolstered with Dubai’s Grey Noise.

But galleries and the work of their artists won’t be the only thing on show at Spring 1883. Newton is particularly looking forward to experiencing ‘Trading Table’, a special project in the hotel gymnasium by Auckland artist Eve Armstrong. “[It] encourages a barter-type situation, reflecting the nature of the fair, yet also extending the relationships of both collector and artist, private and public,” he says.

Alan Constable, Dutton gallery, Spring 1883

Alan Constable, not titled, 2017. Photo: courtesy the artist and Dutton gallery

In a unique collaboration, Arts Project Australia will share the hotel’s penthouse with New York gallery Dutton. Arts Project is a Melbourne organisation with a long-running supported studio program, and Dutton represents one of their most high-profile artists, Alan Constable. While Dutton has participated in Spring 1883 in the past, this will be the first time fairgoers will have the opportunity to discover Arts Project artists who have exhibited at major institutions including MoNA and the National Gallery of Victoria. With works by artists from both galleries coming together in this vibrant presentation, collectors won’t want to miss a trip up to the penthouse.

“[Fairgoers can expect] an exciting, engaging experience with contemporary art in an intimate environment,” says Newton. “Hopefully it will be educational, inspiring and offer the chance to see and collect works by the cream of today’s contemporary art practitioners from Australia and beyond.”

Spring 1883 runs from September 6-9 at The Establishment. More details here.

(Lead portrait image: Annika Koops, Life Mask, 2017, digital sublimation. Photo: supplied. Lead article image: Mira Gojack Black, Swan Shite Swan, 2017. Photo: supplied.)

Published 10 August, 2017