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Melbourne Art Fair – a funny thing

I recently went to the opening night of the Melbourne Art Fair on the 13th August. It’s the biggest Art Fair in Australia and it’s not hard to see why. There was over 70 exhibitors and a packed crowd. There was a great buzz fuelled by abundant alcohol and scarce food (I’m not sure if it’s restricted to the art world, but I’ve noticed that there is a reverse correlation between alcohol and food in art events). The artwork was amazing and ranged from the impressive to odd (at least to my tastes). There were incredible paintings to performance works. I met Gallery owners, artists, collectors and everything in between. It is amazing to see how art can connect to different people on so many different levels.

One amusing moment – I visited one of my clients (I was insuring their artwork whilst at the Fair). It was very evocative artwork on cloth (?) – sort of like a tapestry. I was chatting to the Gallery Owner when all of a sudden a man rushed up to the artwork and started to scrunch it all up. It was surprising to say the least. It turns out it was the artist himself making a point about his work (lost on me I’m afraid). We joked that ‘lucky they had insurance’, although in back of my mind I was thinking that it’s not covered – destruction by the artists themselves would be considered malicious damage and therefore not covered (I didn’t mention this – would have taken the romance out of the moment – anyway, goes to show why I’m in insurance and not an artist).

As I walked around I could help notice how many works had little ‘red stickers’ on them, indicating a sale. I saw works sell for a few thousand to one for over $250k. I appreciate this is the biggest art show, but it was still surprising how many works sold on the night. So, perhaps after several years of depressed sales, things are starting to look up for the art world.

I also observed that the really spectacular pieces by the well-known artists have a special place amongst collectors, and reinforced the point that unlike other assets that you might own (e.g. shares), there really is a genuinely limited supply of each specific work! Art really is a unique and wonderful asset.

This was my first Art Fair. Perhaps next year I might head up to Sydney for the Contemporary Art Fair and see how that compares.