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  • Feb 19, 2016

2016 Melbourne Art Fair Cancelled

Melbourne Art Fair 2014, held at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne. Photo by Michael Young for ArtAsiaPacific.

In a disappointing statement released on the morning of February 16, the nonprofit Melbourne Art Foundation has announced that the 2016 Melbourne Art Fair (MAF), which was slated to open in August at the Royal Exhibition Building, has been cancelled. One of the reasons, as cited by Melbourne Art Foundation chairman Anna Pappas, is that “a number of high-profile galleries no longer felt able to make the required commitment to the 2016 fair and withdrew their applications for exhibition spaces.” 

MAF, founded by the Melbourne Art Foundation in 1988, is among the world’s longest-running art fairs. Boasting a 28-year history, MAF has long been the most anticipated event of Melbourne’s art calendar. Leading Australian and New Zealand galleries are regular participators, bringing to the fair some of the most exciting contemporary art being produced in the region. For many years, MAF was Australia's only major event for the contemporary art market, until a bevy of competitors sprang up in Sydney. September 2015, in particular, saw the city become crowded with four art fairs: Sydney Contemporary; Spring 1883; The Other Art Fair; and the Volume art book fair. 

Incidentally, in the summer of 2015, Melbourne Art Foundation had terminated its contract—just 18 months into an agreed 20-year term—with the management team appointed to present MAF, Art Fairs Australia (AFA), which happens to be the organization that launched the biannual Sydney Contemporary in 2013. Speaking with ArtAsiaPacific, Beverly Knight, owner of Melbourne's Alcaston Gallery, confirmed that Barry Keldoulis, CEO and group fairs director of AFA, “came to see me last Saturday to say that Sydney Contemporary was going annual from 2017." As a result, she and several other galleries pulled out of MAF last Tuesday. 

Whether this signals an end to MAF’s legacy remains to be seen. Pappas explains, “A decision as to the future of the fair beyond 2016 will be made in due course after further careful assessment by the board.”

Denise Chu is managing editor at ArtAsiaPacific.