At the close of Sydney Contemporary 13 the general consensus amongst gallerists was that Sydney’s first art fair has been a resounding success. The response to the timing and venue was positive and consistent crowds meant that the Carriageworks site was continually filled with collectors and art lovers for the entire three days of the event.
Sales across the board were strong and there appeared to be considerable interest in emerging artists with a number of young commercial galleries reporting healthy sales. At Chalk Horse (Sydney) Julian Meagher paintings sold well as did the lenticular photographic works of Sarah Ryan at Ryan Renshaw (Brisbane). Paul Yore’s technicolour tapestries sold out at Neon Parc (Melbourne) including The Glorious Dawn (2012) acquired by Artbank. Neon Parc also sold a number of Janet Beckhouse’s wildly embellished ceramic vessels. The Commercial (Sydney) also sold ceramic pieces by young Sydney artist, Yasmin Smith. At Starkwhite (NZ) Rebecca Baumann’s coloured flip-clock installation Automated Colour Field (Variation 2) (2013) sold out an edition of five and Ross Manning’s kinetic sculpture also sold four from the edition. Fehily Contemporary (Melbourne) sold out an edition of Abdul Abdullah’s cheeky photograph It Doesn’t Matter How I Feel (2013) and chalked up considerable sales across Abdullah’s painting and photographic practice.
Despite a heavy 2D presence at the fair interest in video works was strong with Artbank acquiring Kate Mitchell’s performative video Getting Through It (2012) from Chalk Horse. Ryan Renshaw (Brisbane) also sold well in the video market with an entire edition of Yvonne Todd’s Smoke Emitters (1993/2013) selling out. Artereal (Sydney) also noted an increased interest in video with sales of Hayden Fowler’s New World Order (2013).
Even the non-profit sector reported excellent sales. ArtGuide provided Sydney’s oldest artist-run initiative (ARI) Firstdraft and Sydney’s newest ARI, Alaska Projects, an innovative space located in a Kings Cross carpark, with the opportunity to show at Sydney Contemporary. Sarah Contos’ mixed media paintings sold out as did editions of Samuel Hodge’s photographs. Kate Scardifield also proved a winner with her gouaches walking out the door. For Director, Sebastian Goldspink the opportunity to be a part of Sydney Contemporary saw his gallery make 90% of sales to people who had never in fact been to the gallery. And most gallerists echoed this point. Even at the high-end of the spectrum Tim Olsen of stalwart Sydney commercial gallery, OLSEN IRWIN (Sydney) noted that their gallery sales were almost entirely outside of their Sydney collector base. He said, “We are selling to new people. And that is a really exciting thing for the gallery and the Australian art scene.”
“We will definitely be coming back to Sydney, even outside of the fair. The economic power of Asia is bringing Australia into the market and we couldn’t be a gallery in Hong Kong and not have a presence in Australia. There is money here and an appreciation for art.” — Pascal de Sarthe, de Sarthe Gallery, Hong Kong
For international galleries, many of them showing in their first art fair in Australia, Sydney Contemporary was always going to be filled with initial challenges. de Sarthe Gallery (Hong Kong) had the most ambitious collection on show with heavyweights Richard Long, Gilbert & George, Barbara Kruger and Chen Zhen. Director Pascale de Sarthe said that having observed the increased presence of Australian collectors interested in international art at ART HK/Art Basel Hong Kong over the last few years he felt the mood was right for de Sarthe to show at Sydney Contemporary. Having sold Zhou Wendou’s striking neon work Basketball Hoop (2009) to a local Australian collector Pascale said, “We will definitely be coming back to Sydney, even outside of the fair. The economic power of Asia is bringing Australia into the market and we couldn’t be a gallery in Hong Kong and not have a presence in Australia. There is money here and an appreciation for art.”
The Paragon Press (London) showed works on paper with editions from Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Richard Deacon and confirmed sales of Hirst, Kapoor and Jake & Dinos Chapman. South African gallery, Everard Read had a large booth at the rear of the main hall and reported healthy sales of eminent African artists Lionel Smit, Phillemon Hlungwani, Pauline Gutter, Deborah Bell and Angus Taylor.
Whitestone Gallery (Tokyo) presented works by contemporary Japanese artists including a large showing of works by Yayoi Kusama. Haruka Ichikawa from the gallery said she was particularly impressed with the large amount of curatorial interest. Gallerists from 10 Chancery Lane (Hong Kong) and Starkwhite (NZ) also noted the number of international art consultants who were present throughout the fair. The largest contingent of international collectors appeared to be from New Zealand.
One particular point I heard repeatedly was the need to capitalize on the momentum gathered by the first fair and that two years is too long a time to wait for the next Sydney Contemporary. Numbers far exceeded expectations with over 28,000 people visiting the fair and there were a number of $50,000+ sales including Michael Zavros’ riff on Hirst Zavros’ Flowers (2013), at Sophie Gannon Gallery. Can Etchells pull off an annual event? We can only wait and see. — [O]