When the Melbourne Art Fair (MAF) returns to the Royal Exhibition Building Carlton Gardens next week, it will showcase the work of around 900 artists represented by over 80 different galleries and artist-run spaces. That can be a lot to get your head around, especially if you're just starting out on the art collecting game and not sure where to start.
One of the main goals of director Barry Keldoulis, who took over the top job in March last year, was to expand the reach of MAF beyond its glamorous home in the Exhibition Building, in an attempt to capitalise on Melbourne's hunger for new ideas and pop-up spaces, reaching new audiences.
Andrew McConnell's Cutler & Co will play host to one such gallery, the Cutler & Co MAF Platform Pop Up, in the space formerly taken over by the temporary preview to his city Joint Supernormal, Supernormal Canteen. The paper lanterns have gone, with naked light bulbs hanging from the elaborate ceiling high above and exposed brick walls painted white – it's a perfect gallery space.
"One of the things we've done is work with people who aren't in the contemporary art world but who are passionately supportive, which includes people in fashion, design and the food industry," Keldoulis says. "Cutler & Co are fantastic examples."
The MAF Cutler & Co pop up will showcase contemporary art galleries supporting emerging artists. "Getting something at the cutting edge, by getting in early, is the best way to spend your money wisely," Keldoulis says. "Ultimately you buy something that you like and want to live with, but it's one way to salve that part of you that wants it to be a good investment as well."
Originally from Brisbane but now based in LA, Mark Whalen, represented by Melbourne's Blackartprojects, is showing a bold tapestry piece and two smaller works in acrylic ink on paper, mounted on wood with a resin surface. "That's something good to look out for, a well-travelled artist," Keldoulis says. "These days it's possible to see what's going on around the world without leaving your bedroom, but it's also good when an artist experiences immersion in another culture. It often gives you a really good perspective on your own culture."
A huge, blue-flocked bear raised on its hind paws dominates one half of the space, with a matching, wall-mounted possum nearby, created by Natalie Ryan, represented by the Lindberg Galleries. "There's been a resurgence of taxidermy over the last decade or so, and she's taken a really interesting twist in this rather beautiful midnight blue," Keldoulis says. "It's quite surreal."
What appears to be a collection of bold, geometrically abstract works hung on one arrow-daubed wall reveals cheeky, not-suitable-for-work phrases when you take a closer look. The acrylic on board works are by Jordan Marani, represented by the Daine Singer gallery. "They're quite fun and playful, but they're also an acknowledgement of the way language can be common and in very frequent use but often also frowned upon and hidden," Keldoulis says.
Look out, too, for Madeline Kidd's trio of children's building block-like pieces and Perth-based artist Tané Andrews' bird's nests fashioned by desert finches supplied with intriguing materials including glitter. Not-for-profit shoemakers TOMS, who donate one pair of shoes to kids in need worldwide for every pair sold, will also show off specially pimped-up pairs in a broad, deep window in the Cutler & Co MAF Platform Pop Up gallery.
"We're also working with Chin Chin in town, who are projecting elements of MAF videos onto the wall across the lane from them," Keldoulis says. "We've worked with Aesop's Collins Street store, too, with Theodore Wong curating a group of artists who have worked with the idea of smell and texture."
Most of the works on show in the Cutler & Co MAF Platform Pop Up gallery hover around the $1000 mark, with the most affordable piece at $750. It might seem like a big whack all in one go, but it only takes one amazing artwork to transform your apartment and really stamp your own visual identity.
"Buy with your heart, and a little with your head," Keldoulis stresses. "Hopefully these pop-ups will help people who haven't been engaged with contemporary art to make that leap. There's a lot of good work out there, and ultimately remember that when you buy a work, you are supporting an artist."
Melbourne Art Fair
August 13th - 17th
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Main Image Credit: Art 42