The popular contemporary art festival has been scrapped due to the withdrawal of several exhibitors.

The Melbourne Art Fair 2016 has been cancelled, says Chairperson of the Melbourne Art Foundation Anna Papas in an unexpected statement released this morning.

“This week, a number of high profile galleries no longer felt able to make the required commitment to the 2016 Fair and withdrew their applications for exhibition spaces,” Pappas announced via a report on the arts industry website Artshub. “With a new and expanded vision planned for the 2016 Fair, we needed the full support of our constituents in order to generate national interest, support satellite events and attract international collectors.”

The shock cancellation comes after a management reshuffle in recent years. In 2013, the Melbourne Art Foundation (MAF) transferred management of the Fair to Art Fairs Australia (AFA), before appointing a professional management team to organise the 2014 event in an attempt to streamline the organisation. However in late 2015, the MAF broke off their connection with AFA, citing “differing philosophies”. It was then announced that the Fair would be solely managed by the MAF, which at the time was thought to be the best strategic option for the early planning of the 2016 art fair.

The biennial event has been running for 28 years, and as a not-for-profit organisation, relies strongly on the funding and support of artists, galleries and the public. With the withdrawal of several high-profile galleries, the financial burden was untenable, although it is unclear if any alternative revenue options had been explored.

“While this situation is deeply disappointing, the Board understands the economic imperatives of commercial galleries, and the many shifts in the global contemporary art market,” Pappas said. “A decision as to the future of the Fair beyond 2016 will be made in due course after further careful assessment by the Board.” The cancellation is a major blow to Melbourne’s vibrant festival circuit. The Melbourne Art Fair is not only one of Victoria’s most popular arts events, but also one of the longest running art fairs in the world. 

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