Monday, September 16, 2013

Fair dealing

Here’s a riddle doing the rounds: “When is the Melbourne Art Fair not the Melbourne Art Fair?” The answer? “When it’s the Sydney Art Fair (aka Sydney Contemporary 13)." And that, after a big burst of start-up publicity linking Sydney with the Hong Kong and Basel Art Fairs, does seem to be where we've ended up.

Since it was first announced the Sydney Art Fair has had a change of venue and been delayed a few months but it now kicks off on Thursday. Those who imagined reaping the benefits of a competitive Melbourne/ Sydney tussle can settle down. The company that owns the Sydney Fair (Art Fairs Australia Pty Ltd founded by Tim Etchells) will now also be running the Melbourne event and hoping to turn it around. Last year the Melbourne Art Fair saw attendances dip 10 percent to 27,000 and, probably more alarmingly, sales drop from $12.5 million in 2010 to $10.2 million.

Despite Sydney's booth prices coming in 25 percent higher than last year in Melbourne, Tim Etchells told the Australian Financial Review Sydney Contemporary is only “anticipating an audience of up to 18,000” and, by the sound of the lavish number of VIP allowances offered to participating galleries, around 2,500 of them will be varying orders of VIPs. No surprise then that ‘Pampering VIPs’ was listed as a significant budget line in the AFA story. So expect a lot of pampering. In contrast the Basel Art Fair restricts VIP cards to just 10 per gallery.

The Sydney Contemporary venue is Carriageworks which will be familiar to visitors to the Anna Schwartz Gallery. In fact her Gallery will sit between the two Art Fair spaces prompting one wit to suggest she rename it ‘Main Entrance’.

Image: VIP card for Sydney Contemporary 13