Art Essays

Newsletter 270

Published January 19, 2019
Georgina Adam of the Art Newspaper shows how one looks at art in a contemporary fair

Still travelling, and still scrambling with deadlines, I’m now in Taipei for the inaugural Dangdai art fair. Of all the contemporary art fairs in the world this one seems to have had the smoothest of launches. Director, Magnus Renfrew, has been-there-and-done-that with the early version of the Hong Kong art fair, which has now grown into an international monster event. Taipei, by contrast, is a more restrained proposition, with only 90 galleries. As there were 160 applicants the restraint is by choice rather than necessity.

Dangdai has come along at the same time that Lorenzo Rudolf announced the cancellation of this year’s Art Stage Singapore one weekbefore it was due to open. Rudolf’s press release, which read like an “Up yours!” to the Singapore government, was the subject of much discussion in Taipei. The preremptory nature of the cancellation means many galleries will have already freighted work to Singapore, booked hotels, and so on. One imagines there will be insurance claims, and possibly law suits.

For eight years Art Stage Singapore has been a work-in-progress that has never realised its potential. This has been due to the inexorable rise of the Hong Kong fair, the recalcitrant nature of the market in Singapore, and plain bad luck. With the announcement of S.E.A. Focus – a new boutique fair to be held at Gilman Barracks at the same time as Art Stage, Rudolf decided to pull the plug. The fact that he’s done it in such an explosive fashion is the surprising thing. In Asia, where forms of politeness are taken seriously, a public rebuke to your hosts can only be viewed as an exercise in bridge-burning.

While I’m in Asia, this week’s art column remains in Sydney. In fact it hasn’t budged from the Art Gallery of NSW, with a survey of work by Nongirrna Marawili, an artist from Yirrkala who is attracting a lot of attention. Marawili is a bark painter but also an instinctive innovator. It’s only when one begins to investigate further that it becomes apparent one of the keys to her originality is a concern not to intrude in areas where she is not a traditional custodian. In her way Marawili is as scrupulous as Tony Tuckson was when he decided not to exhibit his paintings while still working as a curator at the AGNSW. There may be even better reasons for caution as she says she’d be killed if she painted subjects that belong to another artist. Perhaps there’s a touch of hyperbole here…

The film being reviewed this week is the new version of Storm Boy, an Aussie classic in its own modest way. Essentially the story of a boy and his pelican, the ornithology is more spectacular this time around but the sentimentality just as cloying – even more so, as a new plot device sees Geoffrey Rush giving us the original tale in a series of lengthy flashbacks. I wish I could feel more enthusiastic but what we get is a pelican playing the role of Lassie or perhaps Skippy. At least it’s not a turkey.