Must-sees at this year’s Melbourne Art Fair

With over 60 booths presenting, this year’s Melbourne Art Fair doesn’t centre glitz or glam, but glimpses into sci-fi, realism, vibrant colour and Indigenous connections to land. Our editors have rounded up their top picks.

Jess Johnson & Ronnie van Hout, Darren Knight Gallery

Ronnie Van Hout (foreground) and Jess Johnson (background) at Darren Knight Gallery booth, Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

Darren Knight Gallery has a delightful double feature of sci-fi and horror. On the walls are several of Jess Johnson’s otherworldly drawings, as well as a quilt made with her mother, Cynthia Johnson. Positioned in front of them, Ronnie van Hout has created a horrifying scene. Trinity is a gloriously creepy sculpture consisting of three figures, one of them taken straight out of Japanese horror movie The Grudge. It’s the perfect pairing, two Kiwi artists with vivid imaginations.

Almost realist paintings at Reading Room and MARS Gallery

Dani McKenzie at MARS Gallery booth, Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

You can’t walk past Dani McKenzie’s realist, but not too realist, paintings at MARS Gallery, stunningly capturing scenes like people dining outside a café during twilight, or a window opening to a leafy landscape. They’re beyond cinematic. Nearby at Reading Room are paintings by Maggie Brink that feel like memories or old film reels, capturing moments in motion like children dancing and faces floating on person’s back.

Abdul Abdullah & Cybele Cox, Ames Yavuz

Abdul Abdullah at Ames Yavuz booth, Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

The newly renamed Ames Yavuz, formally just Yavuz gallery, (Singapore/Sydney) is presenting a double feature, placing together Abdul Abdullah’s ‘happy’ rocks with Cybele Cox’s bulbous sculptures. Abdullah’s rocks are frankly adorable, but also an exploration into journeys and “the things that help us along the way”. Cox’s bodily sculptures reference goddesses and mythical creatures in a way both feminist and fantastical.

The brilliance of John Prince Siddon at Arthouse Gallery

John Prince Siddon at Arthouse Gallery booth, Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

The yellow walls of Arthouse Gallery’s installation of John Prince Siddon’s work are fitting for paintings and sculptures that are a mixture of traditional, psychedelic and pop. There’s paintings on canvas acknowledging Siddon’s connection to nature and current affairs (Siddon is a Walmajarri man who lives in the remote township of Fitzroy Crossing in the West Kimberley), but also works on painted bull skulls, painted oil drums and satellite dishes.

Colour at Arts Project Australia and Art Collective WA

Arts Project Australia booth, Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

A few stalls at this year’s fair have embraced colour—and that’s certainly the case at Arts Project Australia. There’s two-dimensional works by Anthony Romagnano that use vivid colour drawing on moments from pop culture and found imagery—they are joyfully recognisable. There’s also incredible new work from Chris O’Brien who’s practise is centred on depicting houses, and he’s stitched to together a banner-like textile work of houses that’s captivating in its repetition. Meanwhile Art Collective WA embrace colour through nature with paintings by Joanna Lamb of gardens. Created at a large scale, and hung low, it feels like a welcome green retreat from the concrete of the fair.

Wanapati Yunupiŋu’s shimmering creations at Tolarno Galleries

Wanapati Yunupiŋu at Tolarno Galleries booth, Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

Wanapati Yunupiŋu’s booth with Tolarno is quiet yet undeniably impacting. The artist etches his sacred Gumatj clan designs and narratives onto discarded street signs and aluminium surfaces that litter the landscape. The results are shimmering pieces that softly move under the white art fair lights—there is one large-scale work in particular that is simply beautiful.

The otherworldly at FUTURES Gallery

Matilda Davis at FUTURES booth, Melbourne Art Fair, 2024.

Matilda Davis has scaled up her practice, creating otherworldly, mystical, detailed paintings at FUTURES Gallery. There’s only four of them, but they’re gilled with allegory, symbolism, metaphor, alongside a punk-like spirit—they’re complicated paintings that don’t feel weighed by preciousness. And you have to see the frames: fluffy, velvet, cloud-like trimmings that have been hand-stitched by the artist.

Sally Gabori, Alcaston Gallery

Sally Gabori at Alcaston Gallery booth, Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

Alcaston Gallery has a selection of works by late senior Kaiadilt artist Sally Gabori, most notably the last remaining large-scale painting available by the artist. The 4.5-metre-long work, Dibirdibi Country, is a depiction of her husband’s Country on Bentinck Island. Gabori said of the work: “Near the coast there is a large saltpan that covers a large part of his Country. There are mangrove swamps and rock outcrops scattered across the saltpan.”

MAF commission: Julie Rrap

Julie Rrap, SOMOS (Standing On My Own Shoulders), Melbourne Art Fair Commission 2024.

Julie Rrap was the recipient of the $100,000 MAF commission this year, and has created SOMOS (Standing On My Own Shoulders), a life-size bronze sculpture cast from her own body, in which one version of Rrap stands on the shoulders of another. While subverting societal expectations of ageing women’s bodies, Rrap is also playfully bolstering her own history. When she wondered which giant’s shoulders to stand upon—who had paved the way for her—she decided it was, in fact, herself.

Melbourne Art Fair
Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
22 February – 25 February 2024

Feature Words by Art Guide Editors