Tracey Moffatt. Photo by Chris Peken.

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Sydney Art Week is soon to commence, and brings along with it an extravaganza of immersive and free art experiences in conjunction with Sydney Contemporary Art Fair.

“It’s a wonderful ‘shot in the arm’ at the beginning of Spring to remind Sydney-siders about how much goes on in our fabulous city,” said program director Barry Keldoulis. A new extension of the Art Fair program which launched in 2013, Art Week seeks to engage the public and embrace the city’s cultural life and other types of creativity outside the official art field. It encapsulates and embraces the city’s contemporary art scene beyond the traditional fair program running out of the Carriageworks.
Keldoulis describes the first Art Fair as a response to the question: “was Sydney ready for a premium art fair?” With the answer being a resounding “yes”, excitement and expectations have been building around this year’s amplified program.

Art Week is bursting at the seams with performance art trails throughout the city, an ‘art & dine’ restaurant program, the Talk Contemporary series offering free panel discussions exploring topical and controversial themes, and a VIP Program attracting Australasia’s most influential art collectors and taste-makers.

The week kicks off with the most highly anticipated event of them all with the Opening Night Party at the Carriageworks. With the last Opening Night attracting over 10,000 people, the upcoming event will involve an all-encompassing plethora of art, music and food open to the public. The party will carry on into the Trailblazers event, as a diverse series of performance artists lead crowds ‘ping pong-ing’ through Redfern’s nightspots including The Bearded Tit, Arcadia, The Dock and 107 Projects with unexpected stops along the way.

“It’s really worth coming just to see the traffic jams,” said internationally exhibited, participating artist Tracey Moffatt when reminiscing the Opening Night last year, which had an energy that she says reminded her of New York. “It had a great international vibe and it made me really think about Sydney, that Sydney is changing…” She attributes the success to Barry’s international connections.

With over three decades of experience in the international art world, Keldoulis is a perfect fit to orchestrate a program that encapsulates the world of contemporary art. Sydney born and bred, Keldoulis got his start in New York where he worked as a private secretary and chief of staff for Henry Geldzahler (credited with launching the career of Andy Warhol). Barry returned to Australia after 15 years in America and Europe; and has since showcased the Australian Museum’s indigenous collections at Djamu gallery, managed collections for Sherman Galleries and ran his own gallery for ten years before coming on board as Fair Director for Sydney Contemporary.

Tracey Moffatt kicks off the Night Cap late night events, premiering her latest short film collaboration with Gary Hilberg, a hilarious montage of excerpts from classic films that deal with the art world and artists, titled The Art. The Night Cap series invites guests to join a conversation with leading artists and curators, to the backdrop of a curated program of film and moving image artworks.

“Tracey herself is an icon of Australian art and a fantastic personality, and that really comes through in the work, it’s a great take on the art world and the way [it] operates, and also a interesting look at some of the misconceptions about the art world as well,” commented Barry.

Moffatt says she grew up spending “Saturday afternoons in the suburbs watching telly” in an era before the Internet, when “learning about the world was through movies”.
The themes in Tracey’s work are an excellent compliment to the program in general, which she describes as “a great thing for Sydney… You see the workings of the art world, you see the gallerists, all the dealers there with their different stalls, different cities, different countries… you’re seeing contemporary art, what’s happening right now and looking at the real thing up close.”

Art Week does not seek to particularly favour one form of creativity over another, whether considered highbrow or lowbrow, independent or commercial – but rather it embraces the contemporary art world as a whole.

The Artist Run Initiative platform (ARI) involves independent exhibitors with the program that may not otherwise be exhibiting on the same platform as more established national and international galleries. Sebastian Goldspink of Alaska Projects is excited to be involved again, considering Alaska’s involvement with the last Sydney Contemporary a “turning point” for the small, multidisciplinary gallery isolated to the basement of the Kings Cross car park.

“There’s lots of people in Sydney who might go to the Art Gallery of NSW, to the Archibald’s or to Art Express – [Art Week is] letting them know that there’s a whole world of gallery spaces throughout Sydney and in their neighbourhoods…” said Goldspink, when talking about Sydney Contemporary’s support of the independent scene.

Showing alongside Bus Projects (Melbourne) and 107 Projects (Sydney), Alaska will be exhibiting six artists including Dan Hollier and Kate Scardifeld, core artists Goldspink has worked with over the past few years.

“Artist-run spaces are a really significant part of the art sequence in Australia and historically always have been,” explained Sebastian. He describes artist run spaces as a kind of “breeding ground” for the next generation of commercially successful artists, which also attract established Australian artists, who often branch out and return to artist run spaces, “showing more experimental work that maybe they couldn’t do in a [commercial] gallery context”.

“The Art Fair for me is almost like a physical manifestation of the Internet, in that you can see work from your city, your country and around the world in the one place at the one time,” said Barry. “[However] most good art still needs to be seen in the flesh to be fully appreciated, to get that visceral response to the work.”

SYDNEY ART WEEK
September 7–13. Various venues across inner Sydney.

SYDNEY CONTEMPORARY ART FAIR
September 10–13.
Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Redfern. 

OPENING NIGHT PARTY
September 10, from 5pm. Carriageworks, 245 Wilson Street, Redfern. $50 (includes complimentary drink).

For further details on venues and individual events visit sydneycontemporary.com.au