Bronwyn Johnson steps down from the Melbourne Art Fair - Art Collector

25 October 2011 | Bronwyn Johnson has announced her resignation from the Melbourne Art Fair. Johnson has guided the biennial fair for 16 years and will finish up in December. “I’m going to take a break but I have got a few plans,” she hints about her next ventures.

The board of the Melbourne Art Foundation is currently advertising for a replacement and is expected make a decision before the end of the year.

“When [the fair] got started in 1988 it was part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations and there were 20 galleries on an upstairs balcony and a tractor show going on downstairs so you could buy art and a combine harvester, “ says Johnson. “It was a different art world.”

She adds: “When I started the recession had hit Sydney really hard. I had about three galleries out of New South Wales. Now we have more galleries coming out of NSW than ever before and a great group of collectors and people who travel to the event from all over Australia. Twenty per cent of my audience is out of Sydney now,” says Johnson.

The last edition of the fair in 2010 attracted 30,000 visitors and generated over $11 million in artwork sales.

Johnson puts the fair’s success down to quality control. “I think at the end of the day you’re only as good as the quality of your exhibition and that means the quality of the art,” she says. “By bringing in selection criteria and you’re invited to participate in the Melbourne Art Fair and that’s raised the standard and also raised galleries’ standards throughout this period.”

But she sees her greatest success in expanding the fair into a full week-long program of events. “I think what I’m very much proud of is turning it into Melbourne’s art week. It’s become the place where the art community meets every two years.”

Alongside a growing number of Asia Pacific art fairs, the incoming director will also face competition from two Melbourne satellite events in 2012. Not Fair will be staged again providing organisers can find a suitable space, and Melbourne gallerist Vasili Kaliman has also announced a new event, called The New Fair. Details are not available at this stage but it is expected to be modest in scale compared to the Melbourne Art Fair, which typically attracts around 80 exhibitors.

The Melbourne Art Fair, along with Not Fair and The New Fair, will be held in August next year.

Jane O'Sullivan

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