Melbourne's Other Art Fair / by Geoff Harrison

I hope they run this event again in Melbourne.  As I understand it, Sydney has held it twice. The opportunity to exchange minds with a large group of visual artists all under the one roof was too good to miss.  I attended on both Saturday and Sunday, the first day was to take in the whole event and with 100 artists exhibiting it was a little overwhelming. On Sunday I focused more on the marketing aspect, that is; how each artist had presented their work in the space they'd paid for ($400 per metre - average space 5 metres).  Also I looked at their promotional material, business cards, flyers, booklets etc.

It was a totally rewarding experience getting feedback from artists about participating in such an event.  Many were first-timers, some had come from Sydney, Adelaide, WA, even New Zealand.  Most appeared happy with their experience and said they would do it again.  A few felt rather differently about it, most notably those whose work was more conceptual.  One artist said she felt that a fair was the wrong context for her work.  Others weren't entirely happy about the location of their "stall".  Whilst artists can choose what size stall they are prepared to pay for, the event is curated.

The location of the fair at The Facility in Kensington drew a mixed reaction as some artists thought is was too remote from the Melbourne CBD.  Then again is was close to public transport.  Some artists were a little disappointed with the attendances but this was the first time the event was staged in Melbourne. 

As you might expect, the art which seemed to sell he best was what I call corporate art, slick, colourful all surface and as one conceptual artist said to me, "I can't do slick".  Nor can I.

One artist summed up the experience very succinctly.  "You have to be clear about your objectives when you participate in an art fair.  You also have to be realistic".  She, herself, was not using the fair for sales purposes as she is already well established.  So promotion was her key objective.  Others said it was a valuable experience for networking purposes and getting feedback from the public about their work.

OK, so lets to the mathematics.  About 100 artists paying an average $2000 for their space which included business cards featuring an image of the artist's work and a saarchiart web address/ artist name.  So nearly all artists brought along their own cards.  So that's $200,000 for 4 days yet the organisers still charged entry fees for the public.  And not even a complimentary free drink for the artists on opening night.

I have this image of a milking shed containing artists, not cows.