VAULT correspondent Emma O’Neill had the pleasure of interviewing CEO and Director of Art Fairs Australia Barry Keldoulis in anticipation of the 2019 edition of Sydney Contemporary. Read Keldoulis and O’Neill’s conversation as they discuss what to expect for the fair this year, including the expanded participation of global galleries, art fairs as catalysts for the ‘contemporary moment’ and NEXT; the fairs newest engagement category.
What is new about Sydney Contemporary this year?
The question of ‘newness’ is somewhat answered by the nature of contemporary art, which is about new ways of seeing, and developing the artistic canon. Galleries are also very aware that collectors come to the fair to see new work, so each year is very visually fresh! So in context of this, we like to keep on our toes, and have introduced a new section to the fair called NEXT. In which we have asked participating galleries to submit work by a young artist to be hung alongside their contemporaries in one of the public spaces. Perhaps the young artist chosen is not yet represented but is someone of whom they think has strong potential, the response from galleries for NEXT has been really exciting.
What booths/artists are you most looking forward to seeing?
It is always exciting to see what the international galleries bring to the fair. We have many galleries coming from places where the aesthetic is quite different to the norm here, which is of course to be expected as their histories and current circumstances are vastly different! One may also track how their societies are changing too. For example, we have four galleries coming from Japan. Whitestone is a very established gallery, and part of their presentation will be significant works by Gutai artists, who were the first radical artistic group of mid 20th Century Japan. Contrasted with this will be a selection of much newer galleries, returning gallery COHJU, and new comers MA2 and LOKO, who will generally be showing younger, emerging artists, whose environment and concerns will differ from those of the post-war era. Another interesting and exciting aspect with the international galleries, and indeed some local galleries, is the evidence of the increasing globalisation of the artworld. The aforementioned Whitestone is also showing German and British artists (Chris Succo and Philip Colbert respectively). The representation of art from the African continent is particularly strong this year; Cape Town galleries Salon 91 and WORLART are exhibiting the work of South African artists, as well as work by artists from Ghana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Morocco, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; I am excited to see this realised at the fair this year.
How has the collector base at Sydney Contemporary changed over the years? How does it compare with fairs internationally?
Since the first Sydney Contemporary in 2013, we have been able to attract serious collectors and collecting institutions from throughout Australasia, fulfilling the promise of an extensive profile of what’s going on now in our contemporary art world. But we also consider it part of our job to expand the actual community of people interested in contemporary art, and have been very successful initiating new audiences into the fold. Interestingly, Australians are less parochial in their buying patterns than many international collecting communities, perhaps because we are great travellers, or more curious, or maybe because our nightly news is full of what’s going on elsewhere in the world!
What will the fair be doing in years coming to remain ahead of the curve as the annual calendar continues to fill up with more and more art fairs in the Asia-Pacific?
Sydney has the advantage of being a city on almost everyone’s bucket list, but we will continue to work hard to make the Sydney Contemporary experience unique and all-enveloping, for not only our interstate and international visitors but also for our expanding local audience. As such, we continue to be a whole-of-scene fair, with exhibitors from Artist Run Initiatives and young galleries through to the ‘blue-chip’ mainstays in an effort to expand peoples’ understanding of what contemporary art can mean, exemplified in our Installation and Performance art programs.
How will you be recovering post-Fair?
An all-over body scrub at a Korean bathhouse in LA.