For over 50 years Newcastle has hosted regular wool auctions in Wickham. Here the best superfine wool produced in Australia has been showcased to an international audience. Traditionally this wool has been purchased by Italian buyers and transformed into high-end suits and European fashion, and in recent times Asian buyers have also entered the market.
On 26 February, the last Fine Wool Auctions took place in Newcastle. Future auctions will be moved to Sydney and Melbourne.
Photomedia students from the University of Newcastle’s Fine Art program were invited to document the last days of this historic event. The auctions themselves are choreographed around thousands of wool samples extracted from bales and sorted into endless rows of display tubs. In this environment, buyers and sellers engage in a theatrical play of sound, light, action and high drama as the transactions ensue.
Students were given the opportunity to work with national organisation, the Australian Wool Network, to document the auctions in still images and video, as well as to meet and interview the international wool buyers, the Australian farmers who produce this world’s-best wool and to photograph the wool auctions with all their drama and excitement.
25 students took part in the project which is intended to be published as an e-book. The students will also work with the AWN to produce an exhibition and promotional material later this year.