Spring 1883 2017 was held in Sydney last week and was what I like to think of as the modern edition of the art fair. Taking place in the slick interiors of the Establishment in Darlinghurst, the atmosphere was in direct contrast to the 19th century royal vibe it has when it’s held in Melbourne at the Hotel Windsor. The crowd were much less a bunch of art oriented millennials (there for the primo insta story content as well as the art, like me) and more a cohort of seasoned collectors and dealers; who asked interesting technical questions about the works like, “what is liquid resin and how has the artist worked with it here?”
The fair was first established in 2014 by Geoff Newton, the director of Melbourne gallery Neon Parc, with Vikki McInnes and Kate Barber of Sarah Scout Presents and Vasili Kaliman. It kind of follows in the steps of international art fairs like Frieze, Art Basel, Scope, and The Armoury show, in that it is an event that’s all about the buying and selling of art; but also because it is the perfect environment to chat; among artists, gallerists and dealers; about art.
This year Spring housed 25 galleries, and several from Melbourne, including Neon Parc, Fort Delta, Lon, Alaska Projects, and Daine Singer, as well as a couple that were international. And there was a lot to wish you were there for…
Mine was the ‘Trading Table’, a work by Eve Armstrong that—set apart from the other works at the fair—was contained to a single space of its own in the Michael Lett suite; a gallery from Auckland, New Zealand. The ‘Trading Table’ is an ongoing interactive work that welcomes visitors to browse a selection of things; from art, to services, to a bejewelled bum bag that Sydney curator Jess Scully traded for. “I love Jason Phu’s work,” she tells me in the Alaska Projects room, “I’m pretty excited to see his skeleton characters finally having a comfortable experience somewhere; ensconced in this hotel room bed… I just arrived at Spring 1883, so all I’ve done is see this and trade for my bum bag!”
Alaska Projects was one of the highlights of Spring 1883 for me too, as well as some of the favorites AP director Bradley Vincent mentioned that were on display elsewhere in the fair, “I love all the pieces by our artists in the Alaska Projects room of course… But there was also so much more excellent work in the other rooms this year—I was especially chuffed to see great Matthew Harris and Darren Sylvester work over in the Neon Parc room!”
The other rooms included Michael Bugelli’s whose suite was filled almost exclusively with the avant garde sculpture, print, and couture works of Heather B Swann. Many other spaces that stood out this year showcased a star selection of digital works by photographers including Georgina Cue, whose staged expressionist photographs were breath-taking mounted on the wall on top of a bed full of Darren Sylvester’s money bag totes and embroidered towels at Neon Parc. Lauren Dunn whose portraits were hung fabulously alongside a huge mouth-and-hand neon sign inside the Lon room. And, a few doors over, at Ivan Anthony, where NZ photographer Yvonne Todd’s madonna-esque portraits of young women hung, and totally stole my heart.
Overall, it was a bit of a contemporary art moment—there was so much incredible work to see, and so many interesting people to meet… And, while I’m still coming down from my high of artistic enlightenment, I’m also already feeling keen in anticipation of next year’s edition of Spring 1883. And also to the future of other art events like this one, in Australia, growing in size and in number.
- Photography by: Yael Stempler