The Melbourne Design Fair at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (Jeff’s Shed) is part of Melbourne Design Week. Furniture, lamps, jewellery, collectable limited edition or one-of-a-kind pieces. They are grouped into themes of transparency, currency and legacy. Much of it screamed, “I’m a limited edition design piece of conspicuous consumption”.
There were stalls from individual designers and organisations like Craft Victoria, Jam Factory, Australian Design CentreAustralian Tapestry Workshop and Canberra Glassworks, as well as high-end art galleries in Melbourne that sell in this market: Mars Gallery, Neon Parc, Sophie Gannon Gallery, Oigåll Projects and Sullivan+Strumpf, reminding me that they also sell design.
There were things that I never wanted to see again, like the crystal wings of Christopher Boots; the combination of the cliche, kitsch image made out of stone was contradictory.
I was interested to see a Meret Oppenheim, Traccia table from 1939 at auction house Leonard Joel’s booth, as I’ve seen so little of her work. Footprints of the bird’s legs are visible on the tabletop.
Burnt wood is in, this was one of several examples in different booths.
I have two questions suitable for almost all these occasions: What is being done to decolonise the event? And What is being done to make the event carbon-neutral? There were nods in the direction of both of these questions, a “sustainability partner” Acciona but little else, a bit like NGV director Tony Elwood’s brief acknowledgement of the traditional owners at the start of his speech.
The slogan for design week is “Design the world you want”, just as long as a car company sponsors it. Is any of this going to change my life? Where is the doing more with less? Design more with less. And “decoupling design from consumption” that I have heard about on architect Antony Di Mase’s podcasts By Light: Cities & Architecture? There are probably other parts of Melbourne’s Design Week that address ecological and political concerns, but Design Fair doesn’t.
Sunday was a big day in Melbourne’s street art calendar and yet there was no aerosol in the air – it had been replaced by the smell of money. I’ve been following in blog posts the progress of street art moving from the street, into the gallery and now into the auction house. Not that this is the first street art auction in Melbourne but the Andy Mac Collection is an important event and Leonard Joel is a major art auction house.
For over a decade Andy Mac (aka Amac) has been involvement with Melbourne’s street art. He established City Lights (in Centre Place 1996 and in Hosier Lane in 1998) and then Until Never gallery in 2005. He is the first person for a media or documentary interview on Melbourne’s street art. He has also been a serious collector, not just of street art but also skateboards, ceramics and rock band posters for a quarter of a century.
The auction is a serious operation with a full colour newsprint catalogue, receptionists, and a floor talk by Andy Mac on the Saturday before the auction. Viewing of the Andy Mac Collection – “street and fine art from Citylights Project 1992-2012” had been open all week at Leonard Joel auction house in South Yarra. And the publicity for the auction had been going since March (my father sent me a clipping from The Australian 3/4/12 about the auction – that’s what people did before the advent of the online world). There is a lot of money at stake in this auction, an expected $350,000. Andy Mac will get his superannuation retirement investment. And Leonard Joel will get the 22% buyers premium along with a percentage of the auction price. And some artists may have a game changing moment in their career.
The viewing room was a major exhibition of street art itself, complete with catalogue. Three walls at one end of Leonard Joel’s converted old schoolrooms were covered in wall panels of stencils from 2004, the Freeze Muthastika. This collaborative work was painted at the Big Day Out in 2004 and consists of 72 panels (measuring over 30 metres in length, or 60 sq metres approx). Two sets of these panels were sold for $28,000 and the other two were passed in passed in.
Scattered amongst the stencil art there is a signature David Waters sculpture made from foam ($350), beautiful Marcos Davidson rings and one his spectacular assemblages (unsold). It seemed like everything was up for sale, including the perpex tables from Until Never gallery. The “very rare 1957 Featherston Series 21 chair” signed Amac, Rubin, Braddock, Terror and Sync might be bought for the chair or the signatures (sold for $1500 ). Industrial double sided step ladder, Lot 419 “Blue fiberglass construction helmet” estimated at $100 – $200 (Tell them they’re dreaming!) (unsold)
On Sunday the auction room was packed; they even had to bring out more chairs to put another row down the back although numbers thinned after an hour. Along one side of the room there was a table of telephones and laptops attended by assistants dealt with the phone and online bidding. Lots were displayed digitally on two screens and there were over 500 lots to get through (so I did not stay to report on all the details).
Art collector Andrew King started the bidding on the first lot up for auction and over the course of auction added many works to his extensive street art collection. (For more about Andrew King and Sandra Powell’s collection see CDH’s interview with them on Invurt). King was not alone in the bidding and there was sometimes stiff competition for particular works. J.D. Mittman, the former gallery director of Famous When Dead was also bidding, seated at the back of the room with the artist, Adi. There weren’t many artists in attendance; Adi, Miso and Seldom were the only artists that I recognized.
The auction house estimates were on the optimistic side and it was rare for a lot to go above that price. A few lots went unsold, most of those due to the bidding falling just shy of the reserve price. Some lots achieved different prices depending on the colour of paint sprayed through same stencil by an unknown artist: 84. brown (unsold), 85. red (unsold), 86. purple (sold $200) 87. black (sold $260). Other lots achieved different prices depending on the subject of the art. You can see the auction results for yourself at Leonard Joel’s website (all prices quoted exclude the 22% buyers premium).
I’ve been keeping my eyes open on the look out for Melbourne’s street art. And I’ve been seeing street art everywhere. I’ve been looking in the usual places in the city and seeing it some unusual places.
Hawksburn burner by ??
I’ve been out to Leonard Joel auction house in “the impressive heritage listed former Hawksburn Primary School in the heart of South Yarra” to look at the Andy Mac Collection – “street and fine art from Citylights Project 1992-2012”. I will write more about that in a future blog post after attending the auction this Sunday. (Hi Lorraine from Melbourne Street Art.)
I saw some incidental tags and a Junky Projects in the photographs of Jesse Marlow on exhibition at Anna Pappas Gallery. Not that these tags are the focus of Marlow’s photographs but it would be hard to photograph the streets of Melbourne and not include some tags or a Junky Projects tin can face. “Don’t Just Tell Them, Show Them (Part 3)” by Jesse Marlow is a photographic exhibition that looks at the strange beauty found in urban details. Marlow’s photographs are beautifully composed images but she can’t control every detail of what she finds in the street.
Flinders Street with painted carriage
The first painted train carriage in Melbourne that I’ve seen in ages pulled into Flinders Street Station on Wednesday. I hurriedly pulled out my camera. It is not that unusual according to my contact in Metro. They must have been desperate for train carriages to fill the timetable. A contributing reason to why the carriage was run with graffiti might have been that the pieces didn’t cover up too much of the train’s windows.
Continuing with my theme of unusual places to see street art in Melbourne. Street artists have now been hired to decorate part of Melbourne Central (Vetti reports on Melbourne Central) or the Myer Basement (ArtGraffarti reports Myer). And today Keith Haring made the Google home page in celebration of his birthday. If only he hadn’t died in 1990 and had lived to see the street art of Melbourne today. (See my post about Keith Haring in Melbourne.)