CIAF 2018 wrap up


Umbrella has showcased work by Townsville artists at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair (CIAF) since the Fair began nine years ago and this year was our most successful yet. A diverse range of artworks were featured including prints, paintings and intricate Daris and masks by six artists including Martina Ah Sam, Toby Cedar, Shirley Dawson, Gail Mabo, Tommy Pau, and Obery Sambo. The high caliber of the Umbrella display attracted significant sales during the preview opening for museums, curators and collectors. Of particular note, the Bendigo Art Gallery purchased a shark mask by Toby Cedar which marks its first acquisition of a ‘traditional’ style Torres Strait Island artwork into their permanent collection. Overall exposure for Umbrella artists was substantial, with over 45,000 people attending the fair. Total sales for Umbrella in 2018 are the highest they have been in any year so far which is a wonderful achievement. Obery Sambo and Gail Mabo gave artist talks during the fair to audiences very keen to hear more about their work, and Tommy Pau delivered workshops as part of the broader Fair. Our participation in CIAF provided a great opportunity for Umbrella staff to deepen relationships with the Indigenous Art Centres, other galleries/arts organisations, museums, funding bodies and artists present which will lead to future potential collaboration and partnerships.

Also flying the flag for Townsville at this year’s Fair was St Patrick’s College who had a small stall within the marketplace. Their high school students have been creating some beautiful artworks including ceramics, and their Principal Pauline Skerman should be commended for her decision to invest in this significant showcase opportunity for her Indigenous students. We hope to see them there again next year!

Over the past nine years CIAF has grown from its original Art Fair at The Tanks Art Centre and other local art spaces to encompass a wide-ranging arts event across Cairns. It now includes an art fair and art market; satellite exhibitions curated by its Artistic Director Janina Harding working with other galleries; awards; a fashion parade; films and theatre, as well as the Indigenous dance and music performances that have enriched the event since its beginnings. The CIAF Art Fair proper, now housed in the Cairns Cruise Liner Terminal (a spacious converted wharf with a stunning backdrop of blue sea and green mountains) was very impressive. This year Umbrella’s team on the ground consisted of new Director Kellie Williams, and long-time Gallery and Media Coordinator Angela Little. With this year’s install schedule being brought forward by a day, Kellie and Angela had one day to attend satellite exhibitions held by galleries outside of the Cruise Liner Terminal, to connect with curators and gallery directors and conduct an audit of art spaces/business models within Cairns. This benchmarking work will feed back into Umbrella’s planning for the future.

Many thanks to the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, state and territory governments, through which our involvement in CIAF is made possible. We look forward to another successful year in 2019

Kellie Williams