Melbourne Art Fair 2024

Held in the final weekend of Summer on the traditional lands of the Boon Wurrung people, the 17th edition of the Melbourne Art Fair (MAF) showcased an inspiring curation of works from new and iconic artists represented by 60 of Australia’s most significant contemporary galleries and indigenous art institutions. Presented in partnership with Creative Victoria and Creative Australia, MAF 2024 presented an artistic immersion for attendees who, across a culturally rich 4-day program, were transported by live performance, moving-image art, conversations and a progressive display of inter-disciplinary art that became a way of orienting oneself within the world today.

MAF has forged a reputation for being instrumental in shaping the future of art in the Australasian region. Curated across 7,500 sqm of the Denton Corker-Marshall designed Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, this year's fair was anchored by a theme of inclusivity and celebration - ketherba. A Boon Wurrung word meaning ‘together,’ ketherba radiates with a sense of unification, binding a myriad of visual narratives exhibited throughout the soaring volumes of space in a way that grounds it.

Walking through the art-defined halls was a captivating experience. The vibrant diversity of artistic expression on display reinforced that the contemporary art landscape is immensely strong with record sales and attendance both demonstrating an enduring appetite for contemporary art.

Wanapati Yunupingu at Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

After a sellout show at MAF in 2022 Yolngu artist Wanapati Yunupingu returned to the Fair, represented this year by Tolarno Galleries, to take over 100sqm of exhibition space layered in etchings, sacred clan designs and narratives informed by rich ceremonial instruction inherited from his father, Miniyawany Yunupingu and his Gumatj clan. His works are rendered from discarded street signs and twisted metal found littering the landscape of northeast Ahrnem Land to form a series of Gurtha or depictions of the fires lit at the end of the dry season to burn off dead growth. Their shimmering brilliance is wrought from diamond-shaped incisions that introduce a unique composition that draws the eye and holds it there.

Virginia Leonard at Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

Virginia Leonard, represented by Martin Browne Contemporary, showed vibrant, gnarly creations in clay, lustre and resin that captured the attention and drew closer inspection from far away, their brightness of colour, scale and sense of joy and intrigue cultivating an engagement that was both singular and fascinating. In direct contrast, the works of Mark Maurangi Carrol, represented by Nasha Gallery, evoke cultural memory and the quiet connections shared through storytelling. Working on the reverse side of the canvas, Mark works with industrial oil enamel that seeps through the loose weave of loom state linen to appear on the other side in a fashion that mimics tapa cloth. The recipient of the 2023 Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, Mark’s practice resurrects his mother’s memories of the Cook Islands as told to Mark through story.

Mark Maurangi Carrol at Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

Tammy Kanat’s wall sculptures are another departure again. Represented by Sally Dan-Cuthbert Gallery, Tammy is a weaver adept at working with woollen tapestry practices to create breathtaking oval and central circle motifs of inherently pleasing geometries and kaleidoscopic colourways however MAF saw her develop a new and ambitious evolution where she cast one of her works in bronze. Titled Breathe, the striking piece is named for the respiratory-like methodology of directing material inwards and outwards as knots are woven in a fashion that mimics the in and outtake of breath.

Tammy Kanat at Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

Alongside these artists, the MAF program extends to several commissions each year. In 2024, this went to Julie Rrap, an esteemed sculptor represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery. Julie’s response to the commission is SOMOS (Standing On My Own Shoulders), and is described in her commission statement as "a bronze life-sized sculptural work that is a dynamic composition in which two casts of the artist’s body are caught in a moment of action as one figure appears to support the other on its shoulders. While SOMOS echoes the ‘heroic’ tradition of bronze figurative sculpture, it subverts that history by representing an older, female body traditionally rendered invisible."

Julie Rrap at Melbourne Art Fair 2024.

Many many more artists came together in the spirit of ketherba to bond, exhibit, learn and connect with buyers, fellow artists, industry, media and art lovers alike. MAF was a playground to be inspired, an invitation to dive into the colours, themes, materials and methodologies of a commercial art fair with non-profit aims and ambitions that has been reinvented for a future Australasian art sector.

Words by Tiffany Jade. Photography by Griffin Simm.