Melbourne Art Fair celebrates highly successful return

MAF-photo-by-Marie-Luise-PhotographerHeld from 17 to 20 February, the Melbourne Art Fair – Australia’s first in-person fair since 2019 – welcomed 14,500 visitors and recorded $10.5M in artwork sales from 63 of the region’s leading galleries and Indigenous-owned art centres.

Taking place in 7,000 sqm of exhibition space in the Denton Corker Marshall-designed Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the 16th edition presented the highest quality of artworks across all media, from painting and sculpture to photography, video and live performance.

The Fair’s focus on single-artist presentations and works of scale and significance was celebrated by collectors and the art loving public alike. With the support of Principal Partner Bennelong Funds Management, the 2022 art fair delivered an extraordinary cross-section of work by the region’s most significant artists, from newly discovered talents to the most established names in contemporary art.

“This was a landmark edition of Melbourne Art Fair,” says Maree Di Pasquale, CEO and Fair Director. “It has been thrilling to experience the energy of the Australian art world once again.”

“To witness the sales and institutional interest across all galleries, particularly for our exhibiting Indigenous art centres. I am pleased that we were able to deliver on our mission of supporting living Australian artists and that the public supported us.”

Galleries reported sell-out shows, including those by Fox Jensen Gallery (Gadigal Country/Sydney and T?maki Makaurau/Auckland) with a solo presentation of Tomislav Nikolic; Sophie Gannon Gallery (Naarm/Melbourne) and artist Laura Jones; N.Smith Gallery (Gadigal Country/Sydney) with focused presentations from Thea Anamara Perkins and Kyra Mancktelow; The Renshaws’ (Meanjin/Brisbane) with a single-artist show from Michael Georgetti; James Makin (Naarm/Melbourne) with a solo show from Michael Vale; and Indigenous Art Centres, Buku Larr?ggay-Mulka (Yirrkala) with Wanapati Yunupiju, Warlayirti Artists (Balgo) presenting Patsy Mudgedell, and Jilamara Arts & Crafts (Milikapiti) with a solo exhibition by Johnathon World Peace Bush.

Galleries shared their enthusiasm for the return of Melbourne Art Fair: “Art fairs are back, baby. We are so thrilled to be at the Melbourne Art Fair. The crowds have been appreciative, enthusiastic, active, happy, and grateful to be out again,” said Joanna Strumpf, Sullivan+Strumpf (Gadigal Country/Sydney).

“Melbourne Art Fair has put on a beautifully well-organised and well-attended fair. The sales have been excellent, and the enthusiasm and intelligence of the Melbourne crowd is always greatly appreciated by gallerists,” said Strumpf.

“Melbourne Art Fair is back – a new venue, great visitation, strong sales and a sense of optimism for Melbourne and the Australian art world. I was surprised at how many collectors and artists travelled from interstate for the Melbourne Art Fair,” said Sophie Gannon, Sophie Gannon Gallery (Naarm/Melbourne).

“There was some initial hesitancy to travel from interstate, but the significant numbers that did left feeling buoyant and optimistic about the art world, about Melbourne and about the future in general,” said Gannon.

Melbourne Art Foundation Commission
The Melbourne Art Foundation 2022 Commission in partnership with ACMI (Naarm/Melbourne), and supported by Artwork Transport and Panasonic, was awarded to Kaylene Whiskey, an important Australian contemporary artist on the rise represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery (Warrang/Sydney).

Whiskey’s strong connection to Indulkana, her hometown, and her Yankunytjatjara heritage were the foundation of the new single channel video work, responding to the Fair’s 2022 thematic of ‘djeembana/place’. The video work was unveiled at Melbourne Art Fair and will now move to its permanent home in the ACMI collection.

Melbourne Art Fair First Nations Commission
Melbourne Art Fair Principal Partner Bennelong Funds Management demonstrated its commitment to the visual arts in the support of the Melbourne Art Fair First Nations Commission; an acquisitive commission reserved for an artist exhibiting within the Fair’s inaugural Indigenous Art Centre Program.

The $10,000 commission was awarded to artist Wanapati Yunupi?u from Buku-Larr?gay Mulka, with the piece, Gurtha. In a further show of support for the sector, Bennelong has gifted the work to Shepparton Art Museum (SAM), one of Australia’s most prominent collecting institutions, located in Greater Shepparton, in the North Central corridor of Victoria.

VIDEO presented by SUBTYPE offered an astounding view of contemporary works in the field of moving image. Inaugurated for the 2022 Melbourne Art Fair, VIDEO featured new directions in contemporary moving image practice as they are being explored by emerging and established artists from around the world. James Cohan (New York) presented work by Hiraki Sawa and Tuan Andrew Nguyen in an Australian fair first, joined by fellow international newcomers Lisson Gallery (London, New York, Shanghai) presenting Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, and Jane Lombard Gallery (New York) presenting Michael Rakowitz.

The Drawing Room (Manila) returned with a video work from Dominic Mangila. Other long-term Melbourne Art Fair galleries exhibiting in the VIDEO sector included Anna Schwartz Gallery (Naarm/Melbourne) presenting Gabriella Mangano & Silvana Mangano; MARS Gallery (Naarm/Melbourne) with work from Jenna Lee; Moore Contemporary (Boorloo/Perth) presenting Jacobus Capone; Sullivan+Strumpf (Gadigal Country/Sydney) showing Grant Stevens; Sutton Gallery (Naarm/Melbourne) presenting Laresa Kosloff; and Vivien Anderson Gallery (Naarm/Melbourne) with James Tylor.

BEYOND, curated by Emily Cormack, activated the expansive exhibition spaces within the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre with six large-scale installations and spatial interventions responding to the theme Djeembana/Place. Artists included Caroline Rothwell presented by Tolarno Galleries (Naarm/Melbourne), Nabilah Nordin presented by Neon Parc (Naarm/Melbourne), Sean Meilak presented by Niagara Galleries (Naarm/Melbourne), Sally Smart presented by Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert (Gadigal Country/Sydney), Matt Arbuckle presented by Daine Singer (Naarm/Melbourne), and Maree Clarke presented by Vivien Anderson Gallery (Naarm/Melbourne).

Artists from Gertrude Contemporary and LAST Collective exhibited within the 2022 PROJECT ROOMS, a non-commercial platform for artistic experimentation where performance and multimedia meet in thrilling outcomes. This year’s cohort included Kay Abude, The Countess Report, Eugenia Lim, Jason Phu, Andrew Liversidge, Nat Thomas (Gertrude Contemporary) and Beth Arnold, Melanie Irwin, Katie Lee, Clare Rae and Hanna Tai (LAST Collective).

The Fair presented an onsite/offsite performance program that highlighted the vitality of performance and sound art, LIVE presented by Glenfiddich. Aligned with Glenfiddich’s maverick DNA, this program was curated to stimulate and captivate the imagination of the art world and art loving public. The inaugural program celebrated trailblazers featuring Australia’s most boundary-pushing artists with critically significant performances both at the Fair and across the city.

Highlight performances by Scotty So and Steven Rhall (MARS Gallery, Naarm/Melbourne); Amala Groom (Blackartprojects, Naarm/Melbourne); The Huxleys (Murray White Room, Naarm/Melbourne), Sally Smart (Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert, Gadigal Country/Sydney), Angela Goh (Performance Review), Nadia Hernández and Jason Phu (STATION, Naarm/Melbourne, Gadigal Country/Sydney) and Nick Modrzewski (Discordia Gallery, Naarm/Melbourne).

Taking place virtually across the fair week, Conversations was a platform for critical discourse and the sharing of ideas, bringing together cultural communities and thinkers from across the creative spectrum. Programmed by a curatorium led by Melissa Bianca Amore, Art Critic, Curator, Contemporary Philosopher, and Co-Founding Director of Re-Sited, the sessions addressed the future of art and its relationship to interdisciplinary practices and the contemporary world through a series of talks and panels featuring artists, gallerists, curators, collectors, architects, critics, scholars and cultural luminaries. Speakers included Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky), Alexie Glass-Kantor (Executive Director, Artspace), Brook Andrew (artist), Professor Dr Marcia Langton AO, and Kimberley Moulton, among other leading global thinkers.

In 2022, Melbourne Art Fair embraced a hybrid model with the launch of MAF VIRTUAL – an online viewing room platform to connect galleries with a global audience, which continues until 3 March. For more information about the Melbourne Art Fair, visit: for details.

Image: Live Performance @ Melbourne Art Fair – photo by Marie Luise Photographer