In Arts + Entertainment

Sydney Curated: Barry Keldoulis, Fair Director Sydney Contemporary

The gallerist, curator, fair director shares his favourite cultural gems.

Supporting emerging and mid-career artists is something gallerist Barry Keldoulis is particularly passionate about. He believes that Australia is forging a different kind of future – a future that’ll not only embrace, but also foreground, the creative individuals responsible for shaping the very definition of culture.

“We’re actually making our culture. Australia is a young nation, but it also has possibly the oldest culture in the world within its boundaries,” says Keldoulis. “Supporting young, emerging and established local artists is really important.

“I notice this in the way that a number of young collectors approach emerging artists. For them, it’s often about buying good work that they can then ultimately donate to an institution so that the public gets to appreciate it in the future as well.

“The decisions that they make and the decisions that we all make to support artists are what will constitute our culture.”

Keldoulis has worked in art markets across US, Europe and Australia and this year returns as the director of Australasian art fair Sydney Contemporary. He is one with an enviable knowledge of Sydney’s best so we talk shop with him about taking full advantage of the city’s cultural gems.

The best place for a drink

China Diner in Bondi serves up cocktail banquets every Friday. Photo: China Diner/Facebook

“I’m a fan of the small bars. There’s a wealth of them now around Surry Hills, Darlinghurst and even in the CBD. One of my favourites is one of the original small bars, The Grasshopper in Temperance Lane.

“I like the fact that it’s in a place called Temperance Lane – because temperance is the strength from drinking. It has a very intimate, local atmosphere.

“You also can’t go past Iceberg’s Dining Room bar because being a local I’m often out in my really daggy board shorts and t-shirts and although it’s very much a white table-clothed, top tier restaurant, I’ve never had a problem with attitude there. It’s still very Bondi in that way.

“China Diner has a good bar in it down on Hall Street and they make a great martini. I sometimes have a couple of dumplings on the way home too. And I tend to drink in my own back garden that overlooks the beach.”

The best place for a casual bite

Italian fare, atmosphere and family-style service is key to the success of Baccomatto Osteria. Photo: Baccomatto Osteria

“Near our office on Oxford Street Darlinghurst, there’s a wonderful restaurant called Baccomatto Osteria on Riley Street in underneath the Cambridge Hotel. It’s got a wonderful bar you can eat at and the food is absolutely fantastic.

“The food is Italian and the staff make you feel like you’re family immediately. The interior has a contemporary, hard-edged aesthetic; the top half of the walls are that perforated message board material so it’s got an incredible sound absorption quality. So although it’s lively and busy and vibrant you don’t have to shout at each other! It’s pretty much my favourite spot to drop in to after work.

“In Bondi, there’s always the tratt [Bondi Trattoria] which has been a staple for years and Sean’s Panaroma. The food scene in Bondi is constantly changing. The Corner House is my local and that’s great for a good casual bite as well.”

The best place for a special occasion

Dinner with a view at Icebergs Dining Room, Bondi. Photo: Icebergs/Facebook

“I’m a lifetime member of the Iceberg’s Club so I often eat there. I also go to Billy Kwong on Macleay Street in Potts Point for special occasions.”

The best coffee

Pablo’s Vice is a Surry Hills institution. Photo: Pablo’s Vice/Facebook

“I love the hole-in-the-wall coffee joint at the top of Goulburn and Crown Streets – Pablo’s Vice. And there’s even a little hole-in-the-wall right under us that we go to for convenience. It’s called the Funky Grind on Oxford Street next to the laundromat that featured in Muriel’s Wedding. He makes good coffee – he’s great.”

The best places to shop

“I’m not a fan of mega malls so I often go to smaller shops around Surry Hills. I get a lot of my shirts and pants etcetera from Nick Brown on Bourke Street near Taylor Square.

“I prefer more intimate, boutique shopping areas such as Paddington. Nick’s got a similar eye to me for pattern and colour. He makes good, classic cuts and they last and last.”

The best cultural experiences

Cat Alex at Museum of Contemporary Art. Photo: MCA Artbar/Facebook

“We’ve got fantastic major institutions. You can’t beat the MCA, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Carriageworks and Artspace – they’re all doing really good jobs.

“I love going to the artist-run initiatives and the main art schools’ end of year shows. There you see artists who are still pretty much in the swarm of the work that they have been studying and that’s all very intersecting.

“At the artist-run initiatives, you’re looking at the work a couple of years later when they’re starting to develop their own unique styles. There are stacks in Victoria Street in Kings Cross. There’s Interlude on Glebe Point Road, there’s the classic First Draft down in Woolloomooloo and a number of Marrickville – AirSpace Projects.

“They do come and go because that’s the nature of artist-run initiative – they move on to other things. It’s a favourite way to get a snapshot of what’s actually going on at the moment.”

The best things to do for free

A Bondi local, Keldoulis’ enjoys spending as much time at the beach as he can. Photo: Bondi to Bronte Swim/Facebook

“I bought a beach umbrella so I can spend the whole day on the beach. I don’t get to do that very often, but the beach and swimming in the beach or in the harbour are among my favourite things to do.

“Walks in the Blue Mountains or any of the national parks that surround it are fantastic.

“Over the last few years, pretty much all of our cultural institutions offer free entry. If it’s a sunny day you can enjoy the weather or if it’s too hot or raining and miserable, you’ve got the cultural institutions.”

The perfect day in Sydney

“A morning swim and snorkel off the rocks below my place is how I like to start a perfect day in Sydney. Coffee in a Bondi café with friends is next, then in the heat of the day, it’d be a visit to one of those major cultural institutions. In the late afternoon, it’d be back to the beach for a body surf followed by drinks in my garden with my friends while we order in pizza.”

(Lead image: MCA Artbar/Facebook)

Published 25 July, 2017