Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 3 –

Australian Art Market 08 Review Part 3 –

2008 Melbourne Art Fair

2008 Melbourne Art Fair

Two important art world events took place in Australia in 2008 the first of which was the biennial Melbourne Art Fair and the second being the Sydney Biennale.  The biennial Melbourne Art Fair took place from the 30 July – 3 August at the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens where 80 prestigious galleries from Australia and abroad exhibited some 3000 works by 900 living artists from all over the world.  To exhibit at the fair one has to have been invited by the Melbourne Art Fair Foundation who invite selected Australian and International galleries to participate.  Only galleries who represent living artists and hold regular exhibitions on their own premises are eligible to be selected as exhibitors and those that are invited to exhibit must ensure that at least 80% of the work they display is by living artists.  According to the post-fair press release “the four-day Fair generated sales of
AUS$12.1 million , representing a 16% increase on 2006 sales, with 81% of the artworks sold under $10,000 in value. 30,000 people attended the Fair, representing a 14% increase on 2006 attendances.” In comparison, the Tokyo Art Fair only managed sales of US$10,000,000 which was less than the US$11,000,000 (AU to US exchange rate at time) achieved by the Melbourne Art Fair.  Not a bad result for a country with such a small art market. The success of the Melbourne Art Fair was at odds with the predictions of doom and gloom that were beginning to become more frequent at the time. In fact, the success of the 2008 fair was so encouraging that it was announced that the fair would become an annual event.  That is, until the financial crisis took hold and it was decided that a biennial fair was the best option after all.

Although not a commercial event, the  2008 Sydney Biennale was an extremely important event for the promotion and appreciation of modern and contemporary art in Australia.  As one of the oldest and most celebrated   The 2008 biennale  set a new attendance record, with 435,000 people visiting over the course of the 12-week event, up 37% on the 2006 Biennale.   Without doubt the event was a massive success that can only have increased people’s interest in fine art and the likelihood of those that visited the fair purchasing art in the future.

The other art event worth mentioning is the Art Sydney 08 art fair which is an annual event that brings together 100 galleries and a wide variety of art.  Unfortunately the 2008 fair was a bitter disappointment with a majority of what was on offer resembling the mass produced rubbish sold in large numbers at home furnishing stores.  Even though most of what was on offer was  apparently close to a million dollars was spent on opening night which just goes to show that wealth and good taste do not go hand in hand.

2008 was a big year for the Australian art market even though the financial crisis took it’s toll on the auction industry towards the end of the year resulting in less than pleasing end of year results.  What does 2009 have in store for the Australian art market?  Stay tuned for the next post in the Australian Art Market 08 Review series to fine out !!!

See previous two Australian Art Market 08 Review posts here:

Part 1

Part 2

image: 2008 Melbourne Art Fair

**Nicholas Forrest is an art market analyst, art critic and journalist based in Sydney, Australia. He is the founder of, writes the art column for the magazine Antiques and Collectibles for Pleasure and Profit and contributes to many other publications.

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