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Sydney Contemporary · FIVE Questions with Barry Keldoulis · + WIN A TRIP to the Art Fair with Petaluma!

Creative People

9th September, 2013
Lucy Feagins
Monday 9th September 2013
‘Zavros' Sunflowers’, oil on canvas, 150 x 165 cm, 2013 by Michael Zavros, exhibiting with Sophie Gannon Gallery at Sydney Contemporary next weekend.

‘Jungle Sharp’, oil on linen, 183 x 167 cm, 2013 by Emily Ferretti, showing with Sophie Gannon Gallery at Sydney Contemporary next weekend.

‘Stop Making Sense’, acrylic and oil on linen, 183 x 230 cm, 2013 by Lara Merrett, exhibiting with Jan Murphy Gallery at Sydney Contemporary next weekend.

Barry Keldoulis - much respected Sydney gallerist and Groups Fairs Director of Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, at Carriageworks in Eveleigh, the location for next weeks' art fair.  Photo - Phu Tang.

Ok there are people who 'go away for the weekend', and I must admit I am not one of  them.  I seriously envy those masters of work-life-balance, who seem able to skip town at every opportunity - you know, those families who pack up the car every second weekend for a camping trip with the kids, or a hike at Wilson's Prom, or totter down to Hobart for an art binge at MONA.  I would LOVE to be one of those people, but truth be told, I spend most weekends just catching up with myself... usually doing incredibly boring things like book keeping.   I pretty much never leave town unless I really have to.  But NEXT WEEKEND I am making an exception!

People, there is something happening in Sydney next weekend which I am VERY excited about, so excited in fact that I will be leaving Melbourne voluntarily for the weekend.  The event in question is Sydney Contemporary - Sydney's very first contemporary art fair, to be held at Carriageworks in Eveleigh next Thursday 19th - Sunday 22nd September.  This much anticipated event has been a long time in coming - it seems unbelievable to me that Sydney hasn't had its own premium art fair before now!

The line up for Sydney Contemporary is as impressive at it is varied - some of the very best established galleries from across Australia are represented, such as Melbourne's Sophie Gannon Gallery, Brisbane's Jan Murphy Gallery and Sydney's Sullivan + Strumpf,  but there has also been a real push by the organisers to include promising younger galleries who are on the rise, such as Melbourne's Utopian Slumps and Neon Parc.  The result will no doubt mean an inspiring cross section of diverse work, from Australia's most high profile and collectible artists to the emerging 'ones to watch'.  Above all, it's an excellent opportunity to see a hell of a lot of amazing new Australian artwork all in one place, and to really just absorb, learn, and, if budget permits, collect!

In an effort to learn a little more about this much anticipated inauguaral event, last week we managed to grab a few moment with Sydney gallerist Barry Keldoulis, who is Group Fairs Director of Sydney Contemporary.  With over 30 years experience in the art world in Australia, Barry has a reputation not only for seriously knowing his stuff, but also for being one of the NICEST guys in the business!  He is so friendly and down to earth, yet also super high profile within the art world.  What an excellent candidate for a mini-interview, we thought... here goes! -

With more than three decades of experience working in the art industry in Australia, we're wondering if you can cast your mind back to how it all started! Can you tell us a little about your own background - how and when did you first become interested in fine art, how did you first enter the industry and what led you to launching your own gallery in the early days?

OMG that first question is a doozy! Could take years to answer, but here goes for a succinct version.

I was engaged as a ‘viewer’ of art, visiting galleries and museums, when I was at High School, but at that time I never really thought about a career in art (or anything else for that matter), and didn’t study art. I did Philosophy, which didn’t really prepare one for the workforce, but, as contemporary art is a marriage of ideas and aesthetics, I’ve discovered it’s not a bad background for art.

I worked various jobs (insurance clerk, mini-bar attendant at the Hyatt, Supervisor of Coney Island at Luna Park) and saved up money to go to New York, where, after an introduction from my friend and gallerist Rex Irwin, I lucked into the job of Private Secretary and Chief of Staff for the honorable Henry Geldazhler, Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the City of New York. The second half of the title was my idea, and it meant that, as Henry got invited to absolutely everything but, by this time, preferred to go home with his partner and listen to opera and read, I got to deputize! And my friends were the neo-conceptualists, the graffiti artists, and the new gallerists downtown. So it was uptown, downtown and all over town for ten years, and an art education largely by osmosis.

After coming back to Sydney in the mid-nineties, and a stint in the Museum world at Djamu, the Indigenous gallery for the Australian Museum at Customs House, which showcased their Indigenous collections as art of a living culture rather than as artifacts, I worked for blue-chip Sherman Galleries. Having not really worked in the commercial gallery world before it was a real eye opener, and I realized that not only was it the primary generator of income for most artists, but also where all of the different ‘artworlds’ came together. Academics, curators, artists, collectors, the non-collecting public; all came through the gallery. I also became aware of how expensive it is to run a gallery, and how much work it is. No wonder it’s difficult for established galleries to take a punt on young artists. At the same time, hanging out with young art students at their ARIs, I was impressed with the originality and quality of the work. So that’s when I decided to start my own gallery, in a heritage Housing Commission building in Chippendale, to showcase this next generation, and it took off like a rocket.

You closed your gallery earlier this year, much to the disappointment of many loyal fans. Was it a difficult decision to close Gallery Barry Keldoulis after so many years? Did you have a 'master plan' at that time - was Sydney Contemporary always part of the plan?

Sydney Contemporary was part of the plan, in that GBK was going to do it as part of moving to a pop-up and art fair based model. But I was in the process of discussing with the artists what would be the best form of representation for each of them, and many still felt bricks and mortar were for them. And, as a gallerist, over the last few years one has had to acknowledge that more and more of people’s art dollars are being spent at fairs. So when the job offer came along, it didn’t feel like a huge shift, I’m still working ultimately to send money back to artists, and also supporting the gallery model of representation.

How and why did you become involved in Sydney Contemporary? As Groups Fairs Director, what do you hope to achieve with the inaugural event?

Having done Art Hong Kong (now Basel HK) since its inception, I have known Tim Etchells (director of Art Fairs Australia) for years, and he’s always asked why did Sydney not have a premium fair? Well, now the time is right.

Sydney has a strong and growing collector base, coupled with a general rise in engagement with the visual arts; visitation to the MCA has more than doubled I think since the revamp, the Art Gallery of NSW has doubled its floorspace dedicated to contemporary art, and John Kaldor managed to pull thirty thousand to a Performance Art based event! The inaugural Sydney Contemporary will set the bar high for us to vault over with future iterations!

We know its hard to choose favourites amongst such an epic line up (!!), but if you had to highlight just a handful of Australian artists whose work will be represented at the event, whose work are you most excited to see at the event?

You’re right, it’s difficult in my position to play favorites! But I am excited to see the work of younger artists under the same roof as the work of their older colleagues, so that one can see the way art reflects society and the way in which we are all immersed in a world of constant change. For example, the ‘maximalism’ of a young Paul Yore contrasted with the minimalism of a mid-career ADS Donaldson.

When the dust settles after Sept 22nd, what are you most looking forward to?!

Chile! With Australasia, SE and North Asia well covered, we are completing the Pacific Rim feel of the fair this time by bringing over curators and collectors from South and North America, and shortly after Sydney Contemporary I’ll be heading to South America to begin the process of encouraging galleries from the Americas to come to Sydney in 2015. I’m looking forward to the challenge!


In an unexpected yet very convenient turn of events, South Australian winery Petaluma, of whom I am a proud ambassador, is also the official Wine Sponsor of Sydney Contemporary!  (If you're planning to visit, make sure you visit the Petaluma bar at the event, and enjoy your wander with a glass of beautiful South Australian wine!)   I'll also be hosting a special VIP tour for Petaluma at the event, sharing my personal highlights of the fair on Friday 20th Sept.

SO, we thought it would be a such a lovely treat to offer one lucky TDF reader  a trip for two to attend Sydney Contemporary next weekend, and to come along to the VIP tour I am hosting.  We're thrilled that Petaluma has come to the party, very generously offering one lucky TDF reader the following prize! -

Trip for two people to Sydney Contemporary 

· Flights for 2 to Sydney from any Australian capital city (arriving in sydney on Friday, returning on Saturday)
· One nights' accommodation (twin share) at QT Hotel in Sydney on Friday Sept 20th 2013
· VIP Tickets to Sydney Contemporary for two people, and invitation to Lucy Feagins' VIP highlights tour of Sydney Conteporary for Petaluma.

*note - if the winner is from Sydney, no alternative to the flights will be offered, but a night's accomodation is still lovely even in one's home town!


To be in the running to win a trip for two to Sydney Contemporary from Petaluma, simply leave a comment on today’s post before 11.00pm Melbourne time TODAY, Monday September 9th 2013. (*UPDATE: The winner has now been randomly drawn and contacted, congratulations comment 381!)

Please be patient if WordPress struggles to keep up with the entries this morning - if you're not able to leave your comment this morning, please pop back when the rush subsides after lunchtime!  One winner will be selected at random and contacted by email tomorrow.

Huge thanks to Petaluma for this very generous prize - I'll be seeing one of you lucky people at Sydney Contemporary next weekend!

And for everyone else, don't fret - Petaluma would love to offer each and every TDF reader a 2-for-1 ticket to Sydney Contemporary, if you're planning to attend.  To redeem this 2-for-1 offer, simply email today, with 'The Design Files' in the subject heading.

‘Sydney's Orchis’, oil on linen, 71 x 54 cm, 2013 by Julian Meagher exhibiting with Chalk Horse at Sydney Contemporary next weekend.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email