Sydney Goes Contemporary

Sydney Goes Contemporary

Tony Albert offers Aboriginalia at the Sofitel Hotel. As well as his usual kitsch, he's offering (top left) a copy of Karel Kupka's early piece of Yolngu appropriation

Posted by Jeremy Eccles | 08.09.19

Dates: 12.09.19 : 15.09.19
Location: Carriageworks, Wilson Street, Eveleigh, Sydney

It's that time of year again for the now-annual Sydney Contemporary art fair at Carriageworks in Sydney. Ever innovative, this year the show began early in the unlikely setting of the Sofitel Hotel on Darling Harbour where 3 suites and a penthouse clubroom have been 'decorated' by Sydney Contemporary artists. Selected are Tony Albert, Sarah Contos, Louise Zhang and Nadia Hernández '- and while the three ladies are offering lots of colour and movement - and just a hint of bondage - in the bedrooms, Tony Albert has stuck to his familiar theme of Aboriginalia kitsch. His suite is loaded with oddities, including a sad child's dress in Aboriginal colours hanging lonely in the bathroom and an odd reproduction of a famous non-Indigenous painting in the living room.

I wonder whether Albert knows its history? For the original was the work of Karel Kupka, the Czech-born collector of bark art, author of the seminal text, 'Dawn of Art', and probably the originator for both French and surrealist enthusiasm for Aboriginal art. But, little known, he also painted an Indigenous Mother and Child work in a recognisably Arnhemland style and donated the original of Tony Albert's canvas to the Catholic Cathedral in Darwin – where it hangs today.

The Sydney Contemporary idea is that fans of these four artists can live their fandom by booking a Junior Suite (with Club Millesime access) from only $889 a night, or Tony Albert's Prestige Suite from $1,139 a night (ditto) and have the comfort of knowing they are supporting their artist hero and getting breakfast, afternoon tea, evening drinks and canapes and butler services thrown in.

Meanwhile, the rest of you will have to wait until next Thursday at noon for the real show to begin at Carriageworks. There, 90 plus galleries representing over 450 artists from around the globe will sate you with contemporary art – including a number of Indigenous art specialists.

Here are the specialist galleries and artists to look out for:

Alcaston Gallery
with work by Sally Gabori, Betty Kuntiwa Pumani, Tiger Yaltangki,
APY Gallery, appearing for the first time with artworks from Ernabella Arts, Iwantja Arts, Kaltjiti Arts, Maruku Arts, Mimili Maku Arts, Ninuku Arts, Tjala Arts, Tjanpi Desert Weavers, Tjungu Palya Artists,
Black Square Arts from Cairns (also on debut?) with works from FNQ and the TSI by Joseph Au, Daphne de Jersy, Margaret Mara, Garry Namponan, Laurie Nona, Roderick Yunkaporta
Blackartprojects offers the trendy Robert Fielding
Cooee Art includes greats such as Paddy Bedford, Emily Kngwarreye, Tim Leura plus living artists Lena Pwerle, Kitty Simmons, Owen Yalandja,
Utopia also offers Emily Kame Kngwarreye

And then the urban stars emerge:
Art Atrium has a Blak Douglas
Gallerysmith offers Christopher Pease
Kronenberg Mais Wright favours Reko Rennie
Michael Reid adores Christian Thompson
And Sullivan+Strumpf not only has art by Tony Albert but also his first attempt at performance. Originally conceived for Mona’s Dark Mofo Festival, Confessions finds Albert inviting visitors to create a silent, abstract conversation with him purely through mark making, which will become a collaborative artwork the participant can keep. Enter the confessional on Thursday 12 September between 6 and 8pm.

In previous years, I've noted the absence of talks and performances by First Nations' artists. And perhaps Director Barry Keldoulis has taken note – for there are several such events this year. Award winning Pitjanjatjarra artist Robert Fielding travels from Mimili, the small but vibrant community located in the APY lands to discuss how his artistic practice has become the vehicle for celebrating Anangu culture.

Then there's a performative lecture by the Wiradjuri conceptual artist, Amala Groom, exploring the broad reaching impacts of colonialisation on the Australian identity.

Finally a whole session entitled 'Indigenous Languages and the Visual Voice'. The International Year of Indigenous Languages is a UN observance in 2019.  This panel looks to artists using language and their visual voice to address inequity and inappropriate representation, and place the artists world view at the centre of the conversation. Speakers include: Brook Andrew (artist and 2020 Artistic Director of the Biennale of Sydney), Jota Mombaça (artist, showing at Biennale of Sydney), Jazz Money (Digital Producer) and Katie West (Artist). No national, tribal or linguistic affiliations offered.

Missing this year from the list of Aboriginal art galleries at SC19 are two secondary market leaders – Tim Klingender and D'Lan Davidson, who achieved a new record for a John Mawurndjul bark at Sydney Contemporary last year.. Both have excuses – Klingender is pretty busy accumulating art for Sotheby's first Aboriginal art auction in New York on December 13th – a change of date that suggests Sotheby's has lost a bit of enthusiasm for this debut sale; and Davidson has accumulated a stand-alone sale of artworks that Klingender might have quite liked to get his hands on! This just-opened exhibition (at 17 Oxford Street, Paddington, beside the Verona cinema) has a ripping Mawurndjul, a suite of Paddy Bedfords, a recent Daniel Walbidi, a complex Joseph Jurra and a Kaapa Tjampitjinpa to die for. Not bad Tiwi sculptures from the 1960s too.

“I like doing things on my own”, justified Davidson when I asked why he'd turned his back on the big Fair. And, another thing he's quietly doing on his own is a voluntary resale royalty payment to artists like Mawurndjul, who would have got no benefit at all from last year's sale record. By agreement with the vendor, Johnny ended up with 5% of the sale price. And it set Davidson thinking that “there has to be more we, as participants in the secondary art market can do”. For the government resale royalty scheme only covers works made since 2010. Under that law, only 1 in 10 artworks on the secondary market are being captured by the scheme – though that number will continue to increase as the years go by. “I think we can do better than that”, declares Davidson stoutly. 

Interestingly, one of the first of his customers to sign up to the idea was a prominent American collector. “That's the American thing”, D'Lan Davidson opines. “They're happier doing a philanthropic thing than simply doing what the law says”.

PS - terrible parking conditions this year at Carriageworks. Go by Public Transport


Share this: » » Digg it » reddit » Google » StumbleUpon » Technorati » Facebook

Contact Details


Sydney Goes Contemporary

Tiger Yaltangki, 'Malpa Wiru' (Good Friends) 2019 (detail) © The Artist, Iwantja Arts and Alcaston Gallery

Sydney Goes Contemporary

Christian Thompson AO, 'Subconscious Whispers' (2018), c-type print on Fuji Pearl Metallic Paper. Courtesy of the Artist and Michael Reid, Sydney and Berlin.


Further Research