MELBOURNE—Sales at the eleventh biennial Melbourne Art Fair, held in the Royal Exhibition Building July 30–August 3, totaled A$12.1 million ($10.5 million), an increase of 16 percent over those of 2006, according to the Melbourne Art Fair Foundation. Attendance rose by 14 percent, to 30,000, with the fair’s vernissage attracting a crowd of 3,000 people, organizers said.
The reactions of exhibitors, however, were mixed. Some said that the number of Southeast Asian visitors was down, possibly because of competition from fairs in Shanghai and Singapore.
“The fair was good, better than the last two times,” said veteran exhibitor Lothar Albrecht of the L. A. Galerie, Frankfurt. “But it will still have a long way to arrive at an international level.”
“Quality works between A$10,000 and A$20,000 [$9,300/18,600] walked out the door, making the overall sales figures very profitable,” dealer William Nuttall told ARTnewsletter. He added that collectors were slower to buy anything more expensive than that, however.
The majority of the 80 galleries in attendance were from Australia and New Zealand, with others from Switzerland, Germany and Ireland. A number of Asian countries were represented, including galleries from China, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and India. Although Australian art remained the staple of the fair, dealers reported relatively strong interest in work by Chinese artists.
Jayne Dyer of Red Gate Gallery, Beijing, reported good sales for artists including Guan Wei, whose acrylic-on-canvas paintings sold for A$39,000 ($36,250), and Zhou Jun, whose C-prints went for A$3,500/7,000 ($3,250/6,500).
Artbank, a government agency established in 1980 to help promote work by Australian artists, purchased 48 works for a total of about A$200,000 ($186,000) from various sellers.
Sydney dealer Barry Keldoulis received a strong response for video works by Australian artists Hayden Fowler (priced at A$1,000, or $930, each), Jess MacNeil (A$4,500, or $4,180) and Grant Stevens (A$4,500, or $4,180). “Sales were very healthy,” Keldoulis told ARTnewsletter.
The MAB is the only invitational art fair in Australia. Galleries must submit their selection of artists six months before the opening of the fair; the artists and works are then vetted by the fair committee.
Australian dealer Michael Reid’s space was devoted to a mulch garden with mirror-polished stainless steel gnomes by Gregor Kregar, which sold for A$52,800 ($49,500) plus A$20,000 ($18,750) for one of the gnomes, which were sold separately. Melbourne dealer Anna Schwartz sold a A$250,000 ($232,000) installation by Callum Morton, and Kaliman Gallery, Sydney, sold an installation by Del Kathryn Barton for A$350,000 ($325,000).