Bruce McMillan visited the Melbourne Art Fair and was forced to confront his demons…
In 1985 I was accepted into Sydney College of the Arts on the strength of an interview and portfolio. I lasted one semester before I was forced out of plastic arts education to address certain ‘personal issues’: a torrid, on-again-off-again, homo-erotic relationship with my American nemesis: Jack Daniels. As a simple boy from the mysterious socio-economic cultural space uncomfortably squeezed between Sydney’s prestigious Lower North Shore and its burgeoning Western Suburbs, how was I to know that chronic, hopeless alcoholism was simply de rigueur among image conscious image makers?
I never did make it back to art college; one thing lead to another – marriage, the birth of a child, divorce, detox, rehab, another relationship, more children, another relationship break-down, another rehab… before I knew it, I was 40. Spasmodically, I somehow wedged some painting in among the oscillations between intoxicated degradation and monastic abstinence.
Visiting this year’s Melbourne Art Fair, however, had me seriously ruing some of the ‘deviations’ my life has lead me on.
I’d never been to an ‘art fair’ before. How I came to be at this one is a story best left for another time. I have been to Luna Park… and the Easter Show… and even the Gold Coast. It wasn’t like any of those places… well, maybe a little like the Gold Coast – but that’s mostly because of all the Victorians. So, how was it? Overall, overwhelming. Two whole floors of the cavernous Exhibition Building in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens is, for me, a staggering, ultimately incomprehensible, quantity of visual art to digest and appraise.
As the name suggests, the Melbourne Art Fair is, under all the layers of resin and varnish, a commercial proposition where women toting enormous Hermes Birkin bags ‘negotiate’ the price of works that cost artist up to 50% in commissions for the privilege of selling.
Now I remember why leaving SCA seemed so appealing in the mid-1980s…