The Art Gallery posted a statement on social media last Wednesday saying that in light of the new COVID-19 restrictions it had made the difficult decision to cancel the Art Fair – but with the six-day lockdown cut short, it is now proceeding with the physical event, as well as offering a portal for online sales.
The Art Fair is a vital source of income for First Nations artists and their communities.
The 2020 event will include paintings, textiles, ceramics, jewellery, carvings, homewares and other works for sale from almost 50 Aboriginal art centres across Australia.
“In this difficult year, there has never been a more important time to support regional and remote communities through your love of art,” says Tarnanthi artistic director Nici Cumpston.
“Supporting artists is at the heart of what we do at AGSA. And so, with the easing of COVID restrictions and significantly decreased risk of spread, a physical Art Fair will go ahead.”
The Art Gallery of SA has presented the Tarnanthi Art Fair alongside the Tarnanthi exhibition of contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art since 2015, with last year’s three-day event at the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute attracting around 6500 visitors.
While many art fairs in other parts of the country were cancelled or moved online in 2020 due to the pandemic, the gallery decided earlier this year to switch to a new location and a later date so it could present a COVID-safe event.
A huge tent for the Art Fair had already been set up on the Lot Fourteen site on North Terrace before the latest COVID-19 outbreak, and extra safety measures are being implemented in response to the restrictions introduced at the start of last week. Unlike in previous years, the artists won’t be present, but visitors will be given an insight into their individual stories and how their work is created.
In addition to the physical event from December 4-5, people will also be able to buy artwork online direct from the art centres through a Tarnanthi Art Fair portal on the AGSA website from November 27 to December 6.
Cumpston says there will be a wide range of items for sale at different price points, from around $50 and up, with all money from purchases directly supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and their communities.
“Art production is an important source of income for them… it’s an ethical way for people to be able to buy incredible works of art from the communities where they’re made.”
Almost $3.5 million in sales has been generated across all the Tarnanthi Art Fairs to date.
The Art Gallery of SA was temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown but reopens to the public today, with the 2020 Tarnanthi exhibition, Open Hands, continuing until January 31.
See this month’s SALIFE magazine for a feature on the Tarnanthi Art Fair and interviews with some of the participating art centres in South Australia.