A major drawcard of the Melbourne Art Fair is the Melbourne Art Foundation Commission. Now in its eighth year, the program provides a living artist with a rare opportunity to realise a large-scale work for unveiling at Melbourne Art Fair which is later gifted to an Australian Institution.
Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran, Double-faced avatar with blue figure 2021, bronze, fibreglass, concrete, neon, acrylic. Collection, HOTA Gallery. Commissioned by Melbourne Art Foundation and HOTA for the Gallery opening 2021.
Commissioned in partnership with HOTA Gallery and supported by Artwork Transport, the 2020 Commission was awarded to Sri Lankan born, Warrang/Sydney based artist Ramish Mario Nithiyendran.
Known for creating rough-edged, vibrant, new age idols, Nithiyendran’s sculptures explore the politics of sex, the monument, gender and religion. His specific references to multi-gendered icons mythologise gender-fluid realms of new possibilities.
Nithiyendran’s work is held in various collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Ian Potter Museum of Art and the Shepparton Art Museum.
The six metre high, site specific work, Double-faced avatar with blue figure now welcomes visitors at the entrance to HOTA Gallery, newly opened in 2021.
Ronnie van Hout, Surrender, 2018 (Commission by Bendigo Art Gallery in partnership with the Melbourne Art Foundation and supported by Artwork Transport) Installation view, Melbourne Art Fair 2018
Supported by Bendigo Art Gallery in partnership with the Melbourne Art Foundation and supported by Artwork Transport, the Melbourne Art Foundation 2018 Commission was awarded to prominent Melbourne-based artist Ronnie van Hout.
Surrender, features two towering figures of more than 2.4 metres in postures of submission. Viewers might immediately think of the evening news and events in the Middle East. Or teenagers cowering in an American school. Or even our own submission to the barrage of violent news we are pummelled with every day. However, in a typically mischievous tactic, Ronnie van Hout’s forlorn figures are in fact sourced from toy soldiers, the kind regularly massacred by six-year-olds.
Van Hout, a bold and brash multimedia artist, who combines the surreal with the social and the serious with slapstick, tends to confound viewers. His sculptural works are known for their social narrative and drama. Surrender is ambitious in scale and concept. The figures’ monumental scale is uncanny – especially as they are otherwise life-like and speaks to the idea of the public monument or memorial.
Mikala Dwyer, The Weight of Shape, 2014 (acrylic, fibreglass, copper, ceramic, bronze, brass, stainless steel, steel and rope, dimensions variable) Courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne
The weight of shape is a delicate balance of ideas borrowing from science, architecture and mythology. The sculpture challenges the audience to navigate the interior of the mind, and physically negotiate and rearrange the distinct departments of thinking.
The carefully suspended objects created from a range of materials – acrylic, fibreglass, copper, ceramic, bronze, brass, stainless steel and rope – are representations of fragments from the productive zone of consciousness.
Dwyer’s practice over the last three decades has been notorious for challenging the limits of sculptural practice, incorporating installation, performance, video and photography. Seen as all-inclusive sculpture, Dwyer’s work requires the audience to participate and find their own meaning within the magic, memory, history and sexuality she evokes.
The Weight of Shape was funded by the Melbourne Art Foundation in 2014 and gifted to the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Ian Burns, Clouds, 2012, detail, (Commission by Melbourne Art Foundation and donated to the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia.) Installation view, Melbourne Art Fair 2012, found object sculpture (including ladders, wood, lights, magnifying glasses, tables, bowls, toys, carpet, umbrellas, motors, TV's, sound systems) generating live video and audio. Image courtesy the artist and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne.
One of Australia’s most exciting international exports Ian Burns created Clouds for the 2012 Melbourne Art Foundation Commission.
Against the cultural backdrop of the increasingly virtual nature of the screen-based image, Ian Burns presented a sculptural work that links the technological screen with embodied experience. An imposing sculptural form, Clouds presents the viewer with a pseudo-cinematic series of scenes that suggest a narrative but without end. Generated within the sculpture itself, the scenes are based on images of motion, specifically flight: ladders, toys, tables, lights, salad bowls and other everyday items are repurposed towards the live re-creation of imagery of the clichéd cinematic sublimity of air travel.
Displaying images alongside the process of their very production, Burns builds a diorama of our contemporary visual world. By the inventive nature of the construction, and the use of commonplace objects to create believable live video renditions of apparently real footage, Burns’ work encourages a playful spirit of investigation.
His new work for Melbourne Art Fair 2012, Clouds, was created in the months preceding the Fair at acclaimed Yarra Valley winery Domaine Chandon where Ian Burns was Artist in Residence.
Ian Burns is an Australian artist based in New York. Named recently in the ‘Future Greats’ edition of Art Review Magazine (UK), he is an artist on the move, with a forthcoming solo exhibition and commission at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne and an exhibition at mother’s tankstation, Dublin along with the Melbourne Art Fair Commission. Ian Burns is a current recipient of a Queensland College of Art, Griffith University Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship. Burns creates what are best described as kinetic assemblages, combining an amalgam of found objects from two dollar shops and department stores like Ikea, with digital technologies, flat screens, tiny closed-circuit spy cameras and cannibalised bits of everyday household ‘stuff’.
Clouds was commissioned by the Melbourne Art Foundation for the Melbourne Art Fair 2012 and was donated to the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia.
Jon Campbell, Stacks On, 2010, Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of the Melbourne Art Foundation (Melbourne Art Foundation Commission 2010) and part purchase supported by the Coe and Mordant families, 2010
As one of Australia’s most exciting contemporary artists, Jon Campbell created Stacks On a massive assemblage of light boxes and banners, adorned with sewn and painted elements leading us from the northern entrance to the majestic dome of the Royal Exhibition Building.
Taking materials from the everyday and assembling them to match his personal sensibilities, Campbell has been called an Australian ‘pop painter’.
Paintings, cut-outs, banners, neons and placards demonstrate his love of suburbia and its vernacular, popular music and its attendant culture, printing, design and advertising, sport and youth culture. His works define not only the look of the world in which Campbell lives, but the accent and humour of its language and how signs can articulate its culture and history. These signs contain text that are sometimes loud and boisterous but never offensively so. They have a beauty about them that encourages belief.
With his use of words and phrases as imagery, Campbell captures aspects of his culture that are both lived and observed, that are local, national and international, and – can be spoken, written, sung and read. Campbell’s masterfully realised signs, cut-outs, banners and placards demonstrate his love of the vernacular and popular music and its attendant culture – printing, design and advertising, sport and youth culture. His works define not only the look of the world in which he lives, but the accent and humour of language and how signs can articulate culture and history.
Light boxes: Twelve light boxes presented in three stacks. Aluminium, two pac enamel spray paint, acrylic and vinyl faces
Each stack approximately 400 cm (h)
Each light box between 60 x 40 x 20 cm and 200 x 100 x 90 cm
Banners: Twelve screen-printed and hand stitched banners
Water based printing ink, cotton, linen, damask and towelling
Each banner from 350 x 100 cm to 220 x 120 cm
Stacks On was commissioned by the Melbourne Art Foundation for the Melbourne Art Fair 2010 and donated to the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney.
Peter Hennessey, My Humvee (Inversion therapy) 2008, (wood, automotive enamel paint and aluminium overall, 500 x 210 x 180 cm), installation view Melbourne Art Fair 2008. Image courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
My Humvee (inversion therapy) is a full sized, highly detailed rendition of a M1025 HMMWV, more commonly known as a Humvee. The object, the contemporary version of the military jeep, is balanced on its nose and rendered in black painted plywood.
At first glance, the object’s blunt proportions and monochromatic surface lend it a sense of mournful monumentality. Looming almost 6 metres in height, its nature is obscured by its dark exterior, lending it a deceptively minimal elegance. However on closer inspection its vehicular features become more obvious, and the towering block resolves into an upturned jeep. The work is detailed, very accurate and actual size but produced using processes and materials that ‘perform’ the object rather than reproduce it.
Peter Hennessey is an artist whose experimental work is largely based on model making and revolves around an investigation into ‘objects that we all know well but only virtually, through media and can never have an actual physical experience of..
My Humvee (inversion therapy) was commissioned by the Melbourne Art Foundation for the Melbourne Art Fair 2008 and was donated to the University of Queensland Art Museum.
David Griggs,Frog boy's dissertation into a new karaoke cult, 2008 (Commission by Melbourne Art Foundation and donated to the collection of the Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane) Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9, Sydney.
David Griggs’ Frog boy’s dissertation into a new karaoke cult, a full-scale circus tent, is crafted entirely from paintings on canvas. The imagery painted on the exterior side of the canvas tent is a collection of tough Holy Cross imagery that details blood lettings, crucifixions, portraiture and military security. Inside the circus tent a large floating video screen documents a performance by Griggs filmed in and around Manila featuring street dogs, gang members, street beggars, Halloween kids and tattooed locals and a fibreglass statue of Jesus Christ.
The work was inspired by fun fairs, carnivals/circuses/freak shows in the Philippines and a 21-year-old man who was a sideshow act at one of the carnivals: Frog Boy. The paintings covering the tent were painted from photographs Griggs took exploring the notion of people living on the edge like Frog Boy. Gang members, street kids, Halloween performers, prostitutes, and foreigners all have a place on the walls of the circus tent. The video work was inspired by an old man living in one of the slum areas in Manila who told Griggs that the people living in the slums do not need more money they need more faith.
David Griggs has a strong interest in exploring the darker side of humanity through the medium of photography, painting, video, sculpture and travel. In 2005 he undertook an Asialink Residency in Manila, Philippines. It was here that the artist’s interest in exploring marginalised and repressed communities provided inspiration for the Melbourne Art Fair 2008 Artist Commission.
David Griggs’ Frog boy’s dissertation into a new karaoke cult was commissioned by the Melbourne Art Foundation for the Melbourne Art Fair 2008 and was donated to the Art Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.
Michael Parekowhai, Cosmo McMurty, 2006, (commission by Melbourne Art Foundation and donated to the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria), installation view Melbourne Art Fair 2006.
Michael Parekowhai’s Cosmo McMurtry is caught in the headlights or perhaps he’s looking down the barrel of a shotgun. Either way, he’s running scared. He seems to be the underdog, but don’t be fooled by his cute exterior.
Rabbits are perennially popular as cartoon characters (Bugs, Roger, Bunnikins etc.) but they are also a highly problematic presence in rural Australia and New Zealand where escalating populations have made them a noxious pest. They’re a monumental problem for local fauna and flora. The title of this sculpture is based upon New Zealand actor Jim Cosmo, best known for his portrayal of the archetypal ‘man of the land’. Cosmo McMurtry stands for the individual and the masses, hero and villain, hunter and hunted. It’s hard to know whether he’s a good guy or not.
Parekowhai also made a brother for Cosmo McMurtry called Jim McMurtry, an inflatable rabbit of the same scale, this time playing dead. Jim was first exhibited at the Gwangju Biennale in Korea in 2004.
Parekowhai’s practice visually shifts quite radically and each work typically accommodates a number of interpretations, each distinct from the other. His sculptures and photographs operate within the languages of Minimalism and Pop Art. He takes basic abstract concepts such as colour, scale, number and surface quality and maps them in complex ways onto stories of art history, popular culture, cultural identity, politics and autobiography.
Cosmo McMurtry was funded by the Melbourne Art Foundation and former Board members, Christopher Hodges, Leo Christie OAM, Richard Frolich, Jan Minchin, Martin Beaver and Roslyn Oxley, the Myer Foundation, the National Gallery of Victoria and Michael Lett.