Sydney’s major art fair is back in the flesh for the first time since 2019, and with works by more than 450 artists on show across more than 90 galleries, there is plenty to see in the exhibitor halls alone. The Galleries, Future and Paper sectors are accompanied by an array of installations, performances, talks and activities that round out the long-awaited experience of an in-person visit to the fair.
From affordable works on paper to emerging art stars to significant secondary market pieces, Sydney Contemporary showcases the full gamut of contemporary art practice. While the fun of the fair is following your nose, below are some highlights to set you on your path through Carriageworks.
1. AMPLIFY — located throughout Carriageworks
Curated by Annika Kristensen, AMPLIFY presents 16 site-specific installations, allowing artists to work on an ambitious scale in response to Carriageworks’ unique surroundings. Claire Healy & Sean Cordeiro’s giant moon made of papier mache manga comics, Gomen ne sunao ja nakute, occupies the bustling foyer like an extra-terrestrial visitor to the fair. At the far end of the site lurks The End #3, Callum Morton’s life-sized replica of the windows of Sydney’s iconic Sirius building, containing the voice of Siri speaking every word for ‘the end’.
2. Utopia Art Sydney — B01
2022 marks 50 years since the establishment of Papunya Tula Artists, the first Indigenous-owned arts centre, whose artists made an indelible impact on the visual arts in Australia and beyond. Utopia Art Sydney has represented Papunya Tula since 1988, and its booth is a celebration of this milestone anniversary, featuring a selection of large-scale, extraordinarily detailed and pulsating paintings by artists including George Tjungurrayi, Mantua Nangala, Ray James Tjangala, and Mary Napangati. The exhibition includes the final painting by Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, recently retired after nearly 50 years with Papunya Tula.
3. GAGPROJECTS — B03
Adelaide’s GAGPROJECTS presents the work of four South Australian artists currently not represented on the east coast. Several sculptures by Louise Haselton, recently retired Head of Sculpture at the University of South Australia, are the result of a residency and collaboration with Papulankutja Artists at Blackstone Arts Centre, Western Australia, and incorporate contrasting elements such as woven grass and cast bronze. A large-scale diptych by Ariel Hassan resting on clawed feet appears at first to be abstract but Hassan’s painstaking brushwork contains art historical references.
4. Damien Minton — C03 in Paper
With its intimate layout of stalls this showcase of contemporary printmaking and works on paper feels more like a market than an art fair with accessible prices to match. Here, Damien Minton presents Tense: Political Posters Past/Present, which combines 1970s political posters with works by an emerging generation. This includes Sam Wallman, a Melbourne artist whose comic book on the history of Victorian Trade Unions is intermingled with his own experiences of working in an Amazon warehouse. Tense features a vibrant wall painting by punk outsider artist Toby Zoates.
5. N.Smith — D07 in Future
Future features galleries who have been operating for five years or less, with booths featuring solo or duo exhibitions of new works. N.Smith presents fresh works by Joan Ross featuring the artist’s signature use of deconstructed Australian colonial imagery accented with fluoro. The sculptural relief Neither warm nor comfortable encases items of found ceramic kitsch within a PVC wall hanging adorned with bling, while in the animation Let’s party like it’s 1815 a gathering of colonial characters is interrupted by an ad for the perfume ‘Possession’.
6. Artereal — F03
Jess MacNeil, whose works across painting, video, installation and film examines shifting perceptions of the environment, is the solo focus by Artereal Gallery. MacNeil’s paintings on coloured Perspex contain abstract topographical traces which echo the saturated, glitchy footage in her digital videos. MacNeil’s work has been placed in conversation with other gallery artists, harmonising with the expressive paintings of Jiaxin Nong and the sensuous sculptures and textile reliefs of Stevie Fieldsend.
7. Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art — F08
In a particularly dramatic example of a solo artist presentation, Kalli Rolfe Contemporary Art features six enormous new paintings by Juan Davila, each around three by five metres. The works, in the style of allegorical history paintings, reflect the Chilean-Australian artist’s recent interest in the industrial revolution and its effects as echoed in present day events. They reference the politics of Chile and Australia, with figures set against epic sunset horizons. The six monumental works are accompanied by a selection of smaller, earlier paintings.
8. An Asia-Pacific focus: Yavuz Gallery — F18; Fine Arts, Sydney & Michael Lett — F19
In the centre of the Galleries hall, two distinct booths both showcase galleries with dual presences in the Asia-Pacific. Yavuz Gallery (Singapore/Sydney) places 21 Australian and Southeast Asian artists side-by-side. Highlights include the hand-forged sculpture of Isabel & Alfredo Aquilizan, and the plaster reliefs of Kien Situ. Across the aisle, Auckland gallery Michael Lett and Fine Arts, Sydney present a pared-back presentation of works by their shared artists, primarily from Aotearoa. Kate Newby’s installation of tiny clay vessels, and Simon Denny’s collaged garments, grab the spotlight.
9. Blackartprojects — G02
Mia Boe’s painting series The Trial is the centrepiece of Blackartprojects’ four-artist presentation. Boe’s practice explores her Butchulla and Burmese ancestry and these striking, intensely-hued works examines the relationship between police and Indigenous peoples in Australia. The artist’s father and sister, both lawyers, have been working with the family of Kumanjayi Walker, the Warlpiri man who was shot and killed in police custody by Zachary Rolfe in 2019. The painting For They Know Not, a haunting landscape of crucifixes, is dedicated to black people who have died in custody.
10. Darren Knight — G10
In the Darren Knight Gallery stand, wallpaper obscures the typical white walls of the art fair booth. Its soft pink, wrinkled image is a detail from artist Louise Weaver’s painting process which involves the application of paint to form a dried ‘skin’. The wallpaper imparts a warmth which draws the eye across details of works including Weaver’s crocheted bird sculptures and woven paintings, the intensely detailed and surreal landscape paintings of James Morrison, Kushana Bush’s gouache miniatures, and Fraser Anderson’s murky sponge-scapes.