It’s Sydney Contemporary week, so I’ll spare you the long raves about politics or arts policies. The art fair is bracing for its biggest year ever. It remains to be seen whether or not it achieves that goal but by the time of writing it was off to a flying start. Sophie Gannon and Jan Murphy have combined forces this year and were doing a roaring trade. Sally Dann-Cuthbert, whose gallery has only been open for about two minutes, was already in the black. Pierre Mukeba at Gagprojects was proving just as popular as he has on every other occasion his work has been shown recently. And so on.
I’ve been to fairs in which the dealers are sitting with glum faces or fixed smiles, silently calculating how much they’re losing. This wasn’t the case with Sydney Contemporary 2019 where positive thinking seemed to be the unspoken rule. I only hope such faith is rewarded. Running a commercial gallery is a desperately hard business unless your name is Gagosian or Zwirner, and there’s nothing from that elevated strata to be found at the Sydney fair.
Australia is still a very small player in the international art market but events like Sydney Contemporary are gradually dragging us into the wider world. It may be significant that Yavuz Gallery of Singapore has just opened a branch in Sydney, which is almost certainly the first time an Asian gallery has decided to have a base in Australia. We’re always wondering when Australian galleries are going to try and expand overseas, but it’s surprising when it happens the other way around.
Possibly my favourite piece at the fair was Michael Lindeman’s installation, Thanks – a gigantic set of clear vinyl letters that spell out the title word, stuffed with screwed up rejection letters. If you look carefully you can see the names of panel members, and fragments of those dreary, formulaic sentences intended to extinguish any glimmer of hope. Thanks for nothing!
I had to write the column about the art fair long before it had opened, but I’m reassured that I wasn’t being overly optimistic. When the fair is over and business returns to its usual crawl, everyone will at least have a few happy memories
Turning to the movies, I went to see the film version of Downton Abbey, feeling pretty sure it would be a disppointment. My confidence was not misplaced. Julian Fellowes has written a reasonably entertaining, utterly shallow, follow-up to the TV series that will probably get the thumbs-up from most viewers and a good proportion of reviewers. Personally, I’d sooner see magnificent trash rather than a tidy, mediocre PS to a successful TV series.