Commerce, curatorial or carnival? Gallerists stake out various positions when wrangling the art fair as ‘form’. Some might stuff their booths with the unsold stock from their bulging backrooms, hoping to finally place those space-hogging works. Others think more carefully about the image they want to project – their brand – the participation in a fair an extension of carefully curated identity. Some go all out, either with dazzling eye-popping installation tropes, or with full-blooded solo presentations, taking full advantage of the attentions, however brief, of the teeming hordes that prowl the corridors. Most strive to achieve a balance somewhere amongst these options, respecting the artists and their work, and hoping to make a buck. And in the current climate, with the undoubted difficulties of access and proximity, gallerists have the added challenge of ‘pivoting’ ‘nimbly’ in order to maximise opportunities.

Melbourne’s Spring 1883 Art Fair, usually held in the accommodating confines of that grand dame The Windsor but abruptly interrupted by Covid, has had to spread out across a variety of sites – usual showrooms now quickly re-hung, borrowed spaces re-fitted for purpose, and the odd generous benefactor or retail destination opening their doors to emergent talent. Happily, despite the partying and conspicuous consumption typical of the art fair form, at this reconfigured & decentralised fair the art remains the focus, the gallerists personable, the conversation informed and we encounter plenty of quality to consider – from the wholly ingratiating to the cooly standoffish. So, a quick critical whip around and an encouragement to download details from Spring’s website and take your own tour of their ‘satellite spaces’.

Heading south, painting is the primary focus at Nicholas Thompson’s pop-up, much of it appealing in instances either heaving with paint or breezy of touch, depending on your taste. Amber Wallis stands out with two murmuringly stately workouts in tenebrous tone whilst Leo Coyte lightens the mood with his dashing and comic “On the Farm”, obviously the apple of someone’s eye!