At the sneak peak of Spring1883 at Melbourne’s Windsor Hotel, one gallerist declared the event “the art fair that artists love”. Rather than meaning something insular, they meant the spirit of fun and community when around 30 of Australia’s top commercial galleries (and a couple from New Zealand), situate artwork within the old grandeur of the Windsor Hotel rooms.
Art Guide editors Tiarney Miekus and Sally Gearon have curated their top picks, from sculptures of hot chips with wilted roses to Taylor Swift getting “cancelled”. The fair runs from Thursday 10 August to Saturday 12 August with tickets available here.
Sarah Scout Presents: Fiona Abicare’s Lounge
The installation, and what you do with a hotel room, at Spring1883 is paramount—so the placement of Fiona Abicare’s stunning, teal, circular sofa in the centre of Sarah Scout’s lounge room is perfection. It’s embraced by artworks from the likes of Sally Smart, Christian Thompson and Simone Slee, the latter of whose glass forms are marvellously suspended between dense, marble-like materials. And make sure you head into the bedroom to see Tony Garifalakis’s artwork-turned-quilt cover made of denim material. It features one word: “SCUMBAG”.
LON Gallery: Simon Zoric’s Litter Trays
Last year Simon Zoric unveiled his five sculptures of cat litter trays at LON Gallery, complete with pieces of kitty poop and a cleaning scoop. The realism is astonishing. Each litter tray is a different colour (very Jeff Koons), and now a couple of these works have found their way into the Spring bathroom, where the heights of contemporary art meet the lows of excrement (and they’re perfectly positioned to take a mirror selfie with them). LON is also showing other brilliant artists, with an exquisite painting by Sarah crowEST and Tia Ansell’s signature textile works.
Kalli Rolfe: Juan Davila and Howard Arkley
After entering this room and finding out that Australian painting giants Juan Davila and Howard Arkley collaborated on artworks together in the early 1990s, everyone apparently remarks, “I didn’t know they collaborated.” Which this editor certainly repeated like visitors before her. And while perhaps the knowledge of this collaboration overtakes the works themselves (they are fascinating collaborations of five paintings of oil, felt pens, enamel and collage on paper), they’re also situated within artworks by the artists. As someone who takes any chance to see Davila’s work, I was particularly taken by an untitled 2023 painting of an almost geometric angel, looking kindly upon a levitating baby—as with many of Davila’s works, read into it what you will.
Nicholas Thompson Gallery: The Circle Room
A few galleries at Spring have a glamorous circular lounge area, and Nicholas Thompson Gallery makes impressive use of the space, housing the abstract works of Eleanor Louise Butt, a geometric screen-like sculpture by Antonia Sellbach, the colourful pieces of Hayley Arjona, and a Rhys Lee painting of Happy couple on a windy day, where the woman’s head is literally blown away by the wind in a haze of paint. There’s also stunning paintings by Elyss McCleary and an acrylic on canvas by Kylie Banyard draped across a bed in another room—many galleries really have made terrific use of the bed this year.
Chalk Horse Gallery: Food Sculptures, Mantlepiece Paintings and Pillow Lovers
Perhaps Chalk Horse Gallery did something very smart by getting curator Sebastian Goldspink (formerly ALASKA Projects and the 2022 Adelaide Biennial) behind their Spring room—because they’ve run with the hotel theme. There’s sculptures by Mechelle Bounpraseuth of hot chips with a wilted rose, a half-eaten cake and a platter of oysters (with, of course, a hidden ceramic condom). Offsetting the humour of these works is a nearby, exquisite still life painting by Laura Jones. In the bedroom are scattered ceramic rose petals and towels shaped like hearts, taking hotel romance packages to the extreme, also by Bounpraseuth. And in case you get lonely, Jason Phu has made pillows to act as lover stand-ins.
Darren Knight Gallery: Everything Noel McKenna
The artwork that grabbed everyone’s attention, before Spring had even opened, was Noel McKenna’s painting Taylor Swift ‘cancelled’, which shows the viewpoint of looking down at the weight scales, seeing two feet and the unmissable, doom-laden reading “FAT”. And if we can’t have this work, then we’d settle happily for McKenna’s much loved animal works, of cows grazing in fields and cats etched into small ceramic slabs.
NAP Contemporary: Scott Redford’s Polar Bears
How can something without eyes be so cute? Scott Redford’s My Beautiful Polar Bear collection offers your choice of smooth, ceramic bear: barbie pink or a splash of yellow? Five different iterations are on offer, most in the bathroom but Papaya Green bear makes the bedroom. And it doesn’t stop there for animal fans, with Dolly Loogatha-Thunduyingathui Bangaa’s delightful Lone Elephant making an appearance in the corner of the room.
Egg & Dart: A Room of Texture
Textures abound in the Egg & Dart suite. The entranceway boasts a tufted portrait by Erin Mison, while the main room boasts Scott Duncan’s ceramic sculptures that almost act as a collage of materials, times periods, and styles. Mison returns in the bathroom, with an elaborate rug leading from the door to the toilet in the most unlikely of vanity accessories. Then, dripping from the towel racks are Gabrielle Adamik’s oozing glass sculptures, looking like they may fall on the ‘bath mat’ at any moment.
The spirit—and studio—of Margaret Olley lives on
A new exhibition at Tweed Regional Gallery has preserved the relocated studio of Australian painter Margaret Olley, with her work providing inspiration for a new series of paintings by Mirra Whale, India Mark and Laura Jones.
Yhonnie Scarce’s glass works are a glistening, poignant exploration of how nuclear testing affected First Nations people
Yhonnie Scarce, a Kokatha and Nukunu artist, has emerged in recent years as one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists. Yhonnie Scarce: The Light of Day, at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, curates a survey of significant works by Scarce from the last few years.
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.
Art Guide Editors
Tamara Bekier and processing the past with paint
Tamara Bekier uses paint to give a voice to the silencing and trauma she experienced as a refugee during World War II. At 92 years of age, her exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ballarat is a survey of her life’s work.
Jessica Bradford and Louise Zhang show us the other side of hell
Jessica Bradford and Louise Zhang collaborate in a playful exhibition at Wagga Art Gallery that explores multicultural identities and reflects on Chinese hell.
How an underwater sculpture trail plays a role in the health – and beauty – of the Great Barrier Reef
The widespread demise of coral reefs due to climate change is now a certainty. But what role does art have in our future for coral reefs?