Sydney Contemporary art fair sales top $21 million

Sales at the Sydney Contemporary art fair have surpassed $21 million with more art expected to change hands in the coming days.

The five day fair, which featured work from more than 500 artists and 96 galleries attracted more than 25,000 people.

One of the major sales was an Emily Kame Kngwarreye painting which Utopia Art Sydney sold for $1 million to a well-known collector in the first half hour of opening night.

“The audience this year seems to have opened their hearts to art a little bit more,” Christopher Hodges from Utopia Art told AAP.

D’Lan Contemporary sold an artwork by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri for $550,000 while several rare 1950s items by Andy Warhol at Justin Miller Art sold out.

There were also strong results for major works by Cressida Campbell, Jeffrey Smart, and Clement Meadmore.

Sydney Contemporary has become critical in growing contemporary art in Australia and the wider region, organisers said, with high-profile collectors and visitors from as far away as the United States, France and South America.

As well as collectors at the fair hunting for the next big thing in contemporary art, there are some artists making their first ever sales.

The National Art School booth had art on display by eight recent graduates, and sold at least one work by each of them on opening night.

Curator Olivia Sophia said the up-and-coming artists were thrilled to hear the news.

“First of all to be selected to show here, and then when we say their work has sold, they’re overwhelmed,” she told AAP.

It’s a big undertaking for a commercial gallery to show at the event, let alone for the specialised art school based in Sydney, but the hope is that current pupils will gain an understanding of of how the gallery system works, said Sophia.

A couple of graduates score commercial representation from their showing at the booth each year, she said.

“We showcase artists we think have promise, give them an opportunity to exhibit here and hopefully be noticed by other galleries,” Sophia said.

At the school’s booth on Sunday there were red dots next to all of the photomedia works by Justine Roche, selected from her Dark Eden series, and overall, sales had improved on last year.

“That’s what we want to always be on the up and up,” said Sophia.

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