Jul 15 2014

Spring 1883: New Art Fair To Launch in Melbourne

by Michael Young

Vikki McInnes (left), Geoff Newton (center) and Vasili Kaliman (right), the three organizers of Spring 1883 at Hotel Windsor, Melbourne, 2014. Photo by Warwick Baker.

Three young Australian gallerists will launch a new art fair in Melbourne this August, which will run concurrently to the long established Melbourne Art Fair (MAF).

Spring 1883 will be based in the historic Hotel Windsor, and organizers say the fair will be somewhere between a temporary exhibition and a re-examination of the established art-fair model. 

The brainchild of Melbourne-based Vasili Kaliman (Station Gallery), Geoff Newton (Neon Parc Gallery) and Vikki McInnes (Sarah Scout Presents), Spring 1883 will use the hotel-art-fair model, pioneered in New York in the 1990s, which now seems to have spread through Asia as a more financially reasonable alternative to mainstream fairs.

Spring 1883, whose exhibitors will be decided by invitation only, will present “galleries that we are interested in and who we would be excited to show,” McInnes told ArtAsiaPacific. The original intention was to limit the exhibitor number to 15, but that quickly grew to 20, “once people discovered what we [were] doing,” she added. Exhibitors will use hotel suites and in-situ hotel furniture in their display, and McInnes hopes that “there will be a real buzz about what is going on.”

While most exhibiting galleries are from a younger demographic, Roslyn Oxley9 and Arndt Berlin have also made the cut, along with New York’s Foxy Production, a gallery that has had a long reputation of being on the edge of experimentation. 

Arndt, which has galleries in Berlin and Singapore, as well as an international stable of artists, attended the early Gramercy Park Hotel Fairs in New York and Los Angeles during the 1990s. Gallery owner Matthias Arndt finds the less conventional and younger lineup of Spring 1883 attractive. “The smaller, boutique concept might be the better format to attract existing and new buyers and discover young work,” he told AAP. Interestingly, both Arndt and Roslyn Oxley9 will also show at MAF.

Newton hopes the intimacy of the hotel venue will lead to more interesting and intense experiences than those offered by MAF. Rather than thinking of Spring 1883 as a “fringe” event, and ascribing it with all the connotations that go with that term, Newton prefers to think of the new fair as an “indie” or satellite event—“something like a little sister to MAF . . . [and] more interesting than the mainstream.” He hopes it will attract a younger, more upwardly mobile audience “who are chasing ideas instead of objects.”

Meanwhile, Kaliman is approaching the event with an open mind. “I’m not sure what is going to happen. Art fairs now are becoming homogenous, and global art fairs are the beasts they have become. Spring 1883 in contrast . . . will be humble and of a modest scale, offering something very unique to Melbourne. Being invitation-only makes a distinct point of difference [to MAF], and it is this paradigm we have embraced,” he said.

The organizers believe the inaugural Spring 1883 will set parameters for meritocracy. But Kaliman admits that subsequent iterations of the fair might well be different: “The art world is an evolving thing, and there is a lot of youth focus at the moment. The world’s art market is focused on the new and the young.”

It is a view to which Barry Keldoulis—CEO and group fairs director of Art Fairs Australia, which runs the MAF—is sympathetic to. He sees Spring 1883 as a satellite event to MAF. “MAF has vastly expanded its program this year. Art fairs globally need to engage with the whole cultural life of a city and we welcome anything that brings good contemporary art to Melbourne,” he said. 

Spring 1883 will be held at Hotel Windsor, Melbourne, from August 14–17.