Sydney Contemporary

Sydney Contemporary, for the past four years, has been a microcosmic study of the Australian art market: its symbiotic relationship with international markets and its major galleries. In many ways this year should be no different. More than eighty-five international and Australian galleries are set to participate in the fair (representing artists from over thirty countries), including seventeen new additions.

The traditional way of framing this event, like all of its kind, is as a valuable chance for artists and their galleries to spend some time in the land of financial fertility that the fair cultivates.

However, this year’s fifth edition of Sydney Contemporary also includes a bountiful program of performance and installation work. Much of it is politically radical, affectively-driven, and difficult to position as (financially) value-producing. Chun Yin Rainbow Chan celebrates matrilineal knowledge exchange by teaching visitors a Weitou lullaby through a veil of smoked latex flowers; Marcus Whale and Athena Thebus reimagine Lucifer, the fallen angel, as a queer icon; Leila El Rayes and Harry Pickering experiment with unspoken social norms and dynamics in their participatory piece Soft Core Bondage Fairies.

The emphasis on performance, here – along with installations and ‘Kid Contemporary’ (featuring Jason Phu) – appears to signal a shift in the values that the fair strives to promote. The claim seems to be that, even at a commercial art fair such as ‘Sydney Contemporary’, art might not be the market’s handmaid so much as its happy co-conspirator.

Sydney Contemporary
12 – 15 September 2019
Carriageworks, Sydney

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