Winter in Australia may well make tourists dream only of skiing in the Snowy Mountains. But in 2014, art is throwing up a fair challenge to the world of goggles, gloves and gluwein, with three major events in three different States which could easily justify a Grand Tour.
Kicking off the party “ for the first time “ is the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) on 24 July, which is Queensland’s celebration of the lively cultural scene involving both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists in that State. Then, from the local to the national, you can fly across to Darwin for the venerable National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, where the best Indigenous art of the past year will be in competition for serious money “ the winners announced on August 8th.
And after this balmy cultural feast in the tropics, it’s back to winter reality and art from all over the world at the Melbourne Art Fair in that city’s elegant Royal Exhibition Building from 12th August. Take your fur coat!
CIAF was established by its State government in 2009 especially to promote Queensland art, and went with a special fund to establish and support Indigenous art centres. Now, the newly independent Fair is in competitive mode, aiming to attract the fresh eyes and enthusiasm of dedicated art collectors and dealers before they’re duchessed by Darwin or Melbourne. And the Fair has much to offer – an appealing water-front setting utilising both of the sheds at the Cruise Line Terminal; both traditional art-centre work and Blak urban grit; dance from one of the most culturally specific communities on Cape York “ Aurukun – reviving works that haven’t been seen in public since a 1962 film recorded them; and a fashion show by up-and-coming Torresian designer, Grace Lillian Lee, soon to be featured in Vogue Italia.
Away from the Fair where you can shop for anything from tea-towells to fine art from both art centres and commercial galleries by such stars as Mavis Ngallamatta, Alick Tipoti and Christian Bumburra Thompson, there’s a curated show of Indigenous sculpture (Solid!) and a day-long symposium discussing hot topics in Indigenous art.
Over the years since 2009, CIAF has brought 65,000 visitors to Cairns, spending $5.6m. – half of it on art. That’s been a great boost for both the economy of this tropical city which has been frustrated by the high Aussie dollar, and for the remote artists of the Far North.