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The State of The Art: 7 Annual Expos Worth Checking Out
Australia’s art scene is vibrant but, by the nature of this vast country, very fragmented, so it is relatively difficult to bring it all together in one show. However, the Melbourne Art Fair each August does a good job of providing an international-standard show, especially of contemporary art, showcasing more than 70 galleries nationwide â and some from overseas.
This is held at the Carlton Gardensâ Royal Exhibition Building, one of the world’s oldest and most iconic exhibition pavilions. On alternate years the show, which draws in some 30,000 visitors, forms part of the citywide biennial Melbourne Art Week.
Also in August but on a more manageable scale is the Shoalhaven Open Art Exhibition, a tradition of nearly 50 years standing. This show, sponsored by the local council, is open to anyone over 18 and living or working in Australia. A relative novelty here is the inclusion of awards for 18 to 21 year olds who live locally in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven region (south of Wollongong in NSW).
Back in Melbourne, there is the annual art exhibition organised by Mission to Seafarers Victoria in October. This event raises funds for welfare services dealing with visiting seafarers across Australia. A leading event for maritime art, it showcases and celebrates the recurring theme of the relationship between man and the sea.
The Mary Valley Art Festival, a three-day festival in the tiny village of Imbil, near Gympie in southeast Queensland, has been held each July. It has become a prime example of the ability of art to bring together and rebuild community spirit in regional Australia and has won many state and national awards.
Arts Project Australia stages a show starting December each year and displaying works by more than 100 living artists. The Annual Gala Exhibition is a finger on the pulse of contemporary art in the country and is held in Melbourne.
Not to be outdone, the New South Wales capital now has Sydney Contemporary, Australia’s new international art fair, at Carriageworks in September. This is very much a selling show and features art from four continents as well as throughout Australia itself. The inaugural show in 2013 attracted more than 28,000 visitors.
Never forget that the country’s heritage stems from the Indigenous people and their unique culture. Darwin celebrates Indigenous art with a unique three-day event that combines an art market with a celebration of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. It claims to be the only art fair in Australia that exclusively sells and showcases art by Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.