Sydney Contemporary Art Fair Opens Tonight

Sydney’s inaugural art fair – which involves over 80 Australian and international galleries – launches tonight at Carriageworks. Dijana Kumurdian spoke with Barry Keldoulis, chief executive of Art Fairs Australia, about what to expect.


Since the prestigious Melbourne Art Fair was established in 1988, there has been a notable asymmetry in the Australian art scene, one that prompted artist, critic and RMIT professor Peter Hill to ask in a 2002 article, “Why does Melbourne have one and not Sydney?” This disparity has now been corrected. This weekend, Sydney will, for the first time, host its own biennial, high-end international art event, Sydney Contemporary, thanks to Tim Etchells — the man behind Art Basel Hong Kong.

More than 70 galleries, about a third of which are from overseas and include London’s Paragon, Beijing’s China Art Projects and Auckland’s Bath Street Gallery, will exhibit throughout Sydney Contemporary’s five exhibition sections. ‘Current Contemporary’ will feature established locals and internationals, including Melbourne’s Sutton Gallery and Brisbane’s Jan Murphy Gallery; ‘Future’ and ‘Project Contemporary’ will provide opportunities for burgeoning galleries, including Melbourne’s Utopian Slumps and Sydney’s Chalkhorse; ‘Installation Contemporary’ will be curated by Aaron Seeto of 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art; and the ‘Video Contemporary’ section will be overseen by Artspace curator Mark Feary.

Carriageworks, the repurposed Redfern railyard, was chosen for its distinct industrial quality and divergence from the typical art fair venue. “It’s a natural fit,” says Barry Keldoulis, chief executive of Art Fairs Australia, the group behind both Sydney Contemporary and Melbourne Art Fair. “The design [by London-based architecture firm Stiff+Trevillion] will give us something like a spine with fingers coming off it, which will mimic the relationship between the land and the harbour, one of the unique aspects of Sydney. It won’t be your usual barn of a space; it’ll be intriguing and intimate, with surprises around every corner.”Sydney Contemporary

It’s the fair’s enthusiasm for video installation, says Keldoulis, that will make Sydney Contemporary an experience unique to the city. “In terms of video art, Australia probably leads the world, certainly in collections going into people’s homes. In the rest of the world, video art is still largely considered the domain of museums. Video Contemporary will be a distinguishing feature for Sydney and for Australia in general.”

As well as bringing its own flavour to the international art scene, Keldoulis believes the fair will help to combat the art world’s air of inaccessibility. “I think one of the effects of the art fair is the democratisation of the viewing of art,” he says. “People will realise it’s about their personal response, not about having been educated in art. That’s the most important thing. Aggregate events like fairs are a wonderful way, in a time-poor environment, for people to see a lot of work all at once.”

The fair will have a more global focus than its Melbourne counterpart, and Keldoulis believes Sydney is a natural home for it. “The market in Australia is healthy and growing and Sydney, I think, has been starved for an art fair,” he says. “Sydney already has an international flavour, with about 35 to 40 per cent of its galleries representing international art. Judging by the level of enthusiasm of people I know across all walks of life, they understand it is a great way to see art from all over the world.”linebreak

Sydney Contemporary art fair, 19-22 September at Carriageworks in Sydney, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh NSW.

Originally published as ‘New in Town’ on page 93 of Vogue Living September/October 2013.

Words: Dijana Kumurdian
Hero image: Ann Veronica Janssens’ all our relations installation photographed by Zan Wimberley and courtesy of Carriageworks


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