In Sydney it’s art for art’s sake – and big money too, of course

Yuppie visitors to the show don't seem to be taken aback by this artist's advice that they should no longer burden the planet with their presence.

Yuppie visitors to the show don't seem to be taken aback by this artist's advice that they should no longer burden the planet with their presence. Photo: AAP

If there’s a cost of living crisis, no one has told the Sydney Contemporary art fair.

The 2023 event at Carriageworks is the largest so far, with works from 500 artists and 96 galleries on show.

“It’s great, good to see people out spending money and enjoying it,” gallery director Ursula Sullivan told AAP.

Among the works on display at the Sullivan and Strumpf booth is the first new piece by textile artist Julia Gutman since she won the 2023 Archibald Prize.

“We could have sold that about 15 times, she’s amazing,” Sullivan said.

Art lovers were lining up to enter the fair on Friday, where they would first encounter sculptures of a dead horse, a messenger with wings of gold (literally) and a three-metre “improvisational” sculpture titled Molten Slayer.

Minds duly expanded, there was much else to see, from Meagan Streader’s LED constructions to Ebony Russell’s candy-coloured porcelain vessels and Sera Waters’ retro textiles.

At the top end of the market, the Utopia Gallery was showing a late-career work by eminent Indigenous artist Emily Kame Kngwarreye, with a price tag of $1 million.

A waterfall painting by Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju was up for the same price through Justin Miller Art, which was also showing three works by Andy Warhol.

Among the standout pieces was Roger Swainston’s four-metre-wide graphite work Borderlines at the Tim Klingender gallery booth, depicting coral in greyscale – but at $165,000 it has yet to find a buyer.

Yet at the nearby Arthouse Gallery stand, Clifford How’s palette knife paintings of Tasmania’s myrtle forests had attracted a lot of interest – and several coveted dot stickers – according to gallery manager Will Mansfield.

How is self-taught, and worked as a floor sander until only about four years ago, Mansfield explained, and the interest in his paintings speaks to a demand for art that connects with nature.

Art for all tastes

Assemblages by Kendal Murray have also proved popular, with miniature green landscapes built into whimsical structures made of teacups and saucers.

“It shows how adventurous Australian collectors are, they’re wanting to collect photography, painting, ceramics, assemblage and sculpture,” said Mansfield.

Earlier in the week Manyjilyjarra artist from the Pilbara region Corban Clause Williams won the inaugural $10,000 MA Art Prize presented to open the fair.

Sydney Contemporary began in 2013 and regularly attracts more than 25,000 visitors.

The art fair is on at Carriageworks in Sydney until September 10.

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