Review: Melbourne Art Fair Viewing Rooms

Although the biennial Melbourne Art Fair, due to open in June this year, has been put on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak, a taste of what is to come now has a virtual iteration.

The Art Fair has a long history, first opening in 1988 and until recent times was housed in the Royal Exhibition Buildings. When the fair returns in its physical form in February 2021 however it will have a new home at the Melbourne Convention Centre with the aim of linking it to the arts precinct.

‘We remain committed to supporting the industry during these difficult circumstances and are using this as an opportunity to unite contemporary galleries and living artists via our digital edition of the fair,’ says Melbourne Art Foundation CEO and Fair Director Maree Di Pasquale.

In partnership with, the Melbourne Art Foundation, supporting body of the Melbourne Art Fair, is presenting a free digital version that will run between the 1-7 June and host a variety of digital experiences such as studio visits, interviews with artists and collectors as well as the opportunity to view a range of art from 40 participating galleries; digital viewing rooms will showcase a range of new and established artists and their works from the Asia Pacific region.

The site is user friendly with links to viewing rooms of the participating galleries and the virtual program of talks, studio visits, podcasts and interviews. Registration is required for upcoming events.

The beautifully minimal video work Electric Light (facts/figures/…) 2020 by Daniel von Sturmer of Anna Schwartz Gallery is an animated light installation that works with the architecture of the space using custom built stencils and a moving head profile light to create a sequence of geometric forms that interact with the room.

Ann Debono represented by the Sutton Gallery Melbourne, explores ancient Greek and Egyptian iconography and pattern making in such works as Secca and Palindrome, 2020, acrylic and oil on linen. Richard Stratton of Anna Miles Gallery Auckland, on the other hand, mimics the industrial cog and lever of the machine age in his Revolutions Teapot, 2017, black basalt clay; just some of the possibilities the viewer will encounter as they peruse the online galleries. 

You might like to join Art Fair Artistic Director, Emily Cormack and Malay Singaporean/Australian artist, Nabilah Nordin in her Melbourne studio. Represented by Neon Parc, Nordin is known for her large-scale sculptural installations informed by cultural roots and tensions. To bring you up to date on current issues impacting the arts industry due to COVID-19, Alison Kubler, Editor of Vault magazine will lead a panel discussion with Louise Neri, Director of Gagosian Gallery New York, Tania Doropoulos, Director of Anna Schwartz Gallery and Mark Hughes, Director of Mark Hughes Advisory.

Lonnie Hutchinson in conversation with Zara Stanhope.

A podcast, presented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, (Sydney) explores the work of Australian photographic artist Bill Henson. In conversation with literary critic Peter Craven Henson, whose work spans more than 40 years and has courted both acclaimed and controversy, traverses the themes of adolescent beauty to moody landscapes In contrast, the spiritual and political work of Lonnie Hutchinson, a New Zealand artist represented by Bartley and Company Art, Wellington, explores themes of culture and gender in conversation with Zara Stanhope, Curatorial Manager, Asian and Pacific Art QAGOMA. 

The value of being able to interact with a physical space; seeing the artworks, strolling through galleries, discussing art with gallery representatives, experiencing the community and live events can’t be replaced: The organisers of the Virtual Art Fair however have done a great job in bringing to the public a taste of what is to come and keeping the community informed and in touch with our cultural landscape.

4 out of 5 stars

Melbourne Art Fair Viewing Rooms 1-7 June 2020

Galleries taking part include:

Anna Miles Gallery (Auckland)

Anna Schwartz Gallery (Melbourne)

Arthouse Gallery (Sydney) 

Arts Project Australia (Melbourne) 

Bartley + Company Art (Wellington) 

See the full list of galleries taking part in Melbourne Art Fair Viewing Rooms.

Mem Capp
About the Author
Mem Capp is a Melbourne artist and writer.