Melbourne Art Mart Sets Up Shop Next Door to the Melbourne Art Fair
Our latest pop-up, Melbourne Art Mart, is a response to some confronting statistics in the most recent study into how much money artists in Australia make. 58% of artists are earning less than $10,000 per year from their creative work (56% in 2009), and 19% are earning less than $10,000 per year from all income sources (16% in 2009).
In real terms since 2009, the average annual income earned from creative work has declined by 19% while artists continue to spend around half of their working time on their creative practice. In other words, the art market is failing the majority of Australian artists.
Melbourne Art Mart: Our Pop-Up With a Purpose
To shine light on this issue, we’ve set up shop next door to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, where the Melbourne Art Fair is being held, at the Sturt Street IGA just down the road throughout the Fair.
The pop-up exhibition at the independent grocers aptly features work by 7 independent emerging Melbourne artists: Kim Hyunji, Tank, Jemma Cakebread, Cameron Holmes, Sharon Monagle, Josh Muir and Vlona Mehmedi.
The artists’ work hangs inside the supermarket amongst the lollies, fruit and veg, and is available to buy by simply scanning a QR code with a smartphone. The novel choice of venue highlights how, unlike the majority of the high end art at the Melbourne Art Fair next door, buying art can be easy, affordable, accessible and everyday, just like buying groceries from your local IGA. It also shows how, with a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, there are so many new and exciting avenues for artists to present their artwork outside of traditional galleries to make a living wage.
Why Next Door to MAF?
The biennial Melbourne Art Fair was cancelled in 2016 “until further notice”, despite being one of the world’s longest running art fairs. According to a statement at the time by the Melbourne Art Foundation, a number of key galleries withdrew their applications for exhibition spaces because they no longer felt able to make the required commitments to the 2016 fair.
“While the situation is deeply disappointing, the board understands the economic imperatives of commercial galleries, and the many shifts in the global contemporary art market,” the statement read.
The newly appointed Melbourne Art Foundation Director and CEO, Maree Di Pasquale, has promised a “revitalised fair”. However, Pasquale’s recent statement, and the smaller than usual number of – mainly elite – galleries involved, suggests the fair has perhaps not learnt from 2016’s mistakes.
“With a highly selective offering, Melbourne Art Fair is set to become the premier showcase for leading Australasian contemporary, and will once again be instrumental in driving critical and commercial attention for galleries and their artists. It will play an important and iconic role in reaffirming Victoria’s profile as a commercial hub and centre for cultural accomplishment.”
How Bluethumb is Making a Difference
Unlike much of the art market, sales on Bluethumb are growing rapidly. Over 2000 Australian artists have now successfully sold their art to collectors using the platform, with many earning well above the national average by selling online.
Bluethumb’s Co-Founder and Managing Director, Edward Hartley, thinks it is time events and institutions established to help artists stop promoting and living by a “Hollywood system” that benefits very few artists.
“Commerce is not a dirty word. My view is that commerce is sustainability in the field of your profession. The majority of professional artists in the developed world live on or below their nation’s poverty line. Many will resort to paid work elsewhere to survive, which eats away at their creative capacity. It’s only the lucky few who make a living wage.
“Our mission is to support all Australian artists in their pursuit of success. The best emails we get are the ones saying ‘because of the sales I’m getting from your collectors, I can now quit my day job to pursue my dream of being a full time artist’.
“Traditional galleries may be under pressure, with many smaller ones closing their doors, but this is largely due to market evolution primarily changing buying behaviour. In fact, there has never been more than 500 commercial galleries Australia wide, maybe supporting 50 artists each, so only around 2500 artists at any one time – a tiny fraction of the nation’s practising artists.
“This avenue has always been narrow and hard to access. The changes in buying behaviour and technology give emerging artists a better opportunity than ever before to establish themselves, using whichever channel they see fit. More than ever those who are hungry and willing to self teach will prosper and create their own success. I see this as a great leveller in society.”
Bluethumb Art Mart is at Sturt Street IGA, 151 Sturt St, Southbank, throughout Melbourne Art Week from 30th July to 12th August. Usual IGA opening times apply. Artworks can be found and bought online by scanning the QR codes on the artwork labels.