Steven Soderbergh is the Academy Award winning director of Traffic, Erin Brokovich and Ocean’s Eleven. At 26 he was the youngest winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Sex, Lies and Videotape. As a writer, producer, director, cinematographer and editor on many of his projects, the success of his films is to a huge extent dependent on his ability to make efficient and effective decisions.

When in Australia for Tot Mom, Soderbergh’s STC play about media attention in the case of the missing toddler Caylee Anthony, he generously answered some questions about his decision making processes for our UNSW College of Fine Arts, Masters of Art Administration, Organisational Psychology class. This is an excerpt from that interview.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

How do you make efficient decisions?

Well, I think the most important thing is to remember what your goal is overall, in the case of a film, what the overall intent of the film is. You have to have a 30,000 feet view of the entire project in order to successfully filter out all the potential parallel answers. You have to be able to filter out the ones that are not going to get you to your goal.

I think that efficient decision making becomes difficult when you are in a pressurised situation and you may be leaning towards a solution in the short-term, one that is going to get you to the next step but in the long term it is going to actually disrupt the overall piece.

Staying calm is a big part of it. There has never been a situation in the history of the world where panicking has helped. Sometimes I will slow everything down and send people away so I can think on my own and not feel the pressure of the external factors. I have done that a lot.

Film-making involves many thousands of decisions. How do you reduce the amount of decisions that you need to make?

What happens in a film is that there are 10,000 little questions that get answered in the pre-production period. If you have chosen correctly, that will result in a situation where a lot of potential questions have already been answered.

In my experience decision-making really becomes important when things are not going well, when you have to make decisions about how to get the piece back on track. That is where having a really good support system helps a lot. Being surrounded by people who also understand the film and make suggestions that tip you in a certain way. It is actually where my philosophy about how people are treated comes into play. If you do not treat people well and they are not having a good experience on the movie, they would just clam up and enjoy watching an arsehole wallow.

I also tend to work with the same people a lot and that also makes the decision-making easier.

Have you ever found that you have had to prioritise the project over people’s feelings or needs?

There is usually a way to handle a situation with humour: even when you have to move quickly, move people in a very different direction or correct them in a way that might seem severe. You do not want the way you have made or communicated a decision to affect the execution of that decision. If people feel they have not been diminished in any way by your decision or the way it was made, then they are more committed to its’ implementation.

How do you know when your decisions are satisfactory?

Usually, the indication that you have made the right decision is that things happen very quickly. The solutions to everything are right in front of you. When that is not happening it might be an indication that you did not make the right call.

That is why I am willing to slow things down when it is not working. I had a two-day scene once that I had such trouble shooting, that on the first day I sent everyone home – we did not shoot anything. I figured out that night how I wanted to shoot it and the next day we had finished the scene by lunch-time. So we actually saved half a day. It was better choice than trying to grind through it.

You seem to have a lack of angst when making decisions. Why is that?

It just does not help. Worrying is not going to get you to the solution. In my experience of problem solving, I need to be in a relaxed state. I also do not want to create anxiety around me. It is infectious and it really locks people up.

Another reason is that I had a mentor when I started making films, a documentarian, and he worked in a very similar way. If you had seen him work and then watched me work, you would see where I get my approach.

Interested in more on decision-making?

Barry Keldoulis

The young Barry Keldoulis studied philosophy before heading overseas to New York. It was here that his career in the art world began. Fast-forward to today and after ten years of operating his own space, Gallery Barry Keldoulis is shutting up its permanent space opting for a more fluid operating model. The incredibly kind and humble gallerist shared his thoughts with arts interview about managing artists, networking and his love of contemporary art.

 Interview by Vanessa Anthea Macris

How do you select and instigate relationships with artists for representation?

Interestingly, only one of the artists I’ve ever represented is somebody who walked into the gallery with his portfolio and that is Hitesh Natalwala. I must say that I was struck by the beauty and stories behind his work and he has proven to be a delight to work with. But generally speaking, a lot of my artists I met through hanging around the young artist crowd while they were still at art school. I gave many of them their first show while they were still studying and the relationship has developed from there. Artists have always given me good leads to follow and so a lot of the other artist I have taken on subsequently have been through introduction by other artists I’ve represented. Finally, there are a couple of others that have come from Sherman Galleries with me.

What is your approach in managing your represented artists?

One of the most interesting aspects to the job is the relationship with the artists and of course the relationship with the work itself. So the approach I take is quite intense when compared to the majority of galleries out there who tend to represent an enormous number of artists and show them on a roster every few years. I’ve always worked closely with my artists. From the beginning I’ve really only been interested in artists whose work would stand up on the international stage. This has led to me developing a strategy, at least for the first few years of concentrating on exclusive representation worldwide and narrowing the focus down through that one channel to best strive on getting their work not only seen in Sydney or interstate but internationally.

What relevance does a physical gallery space hold in the current climate?

When the gallery is working as the model is intended to i.e. where you have a fairly constant flow of work out through the stock room, in order to maintain cash flow- the physical gallery space is great. These days that model is not working as well, mainly because of the hesitant times we are in financially. As such the gallery space has almost become a noose around ones neck in that you know people expect you to be here all of the time, but one has to be overseas and you cant be in two places at once. It will be very interesting for galleries going forward, particularly in Sydney who is a very ‘now’ city, a city that is obsessed with what’s new and what’s coming. I think that it will act well to have pop up exhibitions where you define a time and a place for people to be rather than sitting around in the gallery waiting for someone to come to somewhere where they have been dozens of times before.

What is you approach to networking?

I’m not really one who operates on a model other than just being myself, so I’ve never really thought about it too much. I do make an effort to as the Japanese say “keep a wide face” and be out there as a representative of my artists in contexts that they can’t be in.  I do think that networking is important. It is also important to set an example in the industry through supporting other institutions that are supportive of the artists and the art world in general.




This past weekend saw the official launch of the new Blue Mountains Cultural Centre in Katoomba, which opens to the public on the 17th of November. I am immensely proud to have been a part of this new Cultural Centre’s development for the last three months and during this time I have watched Paul Brinkman, the Cultural Centre’s Director patiently and masterfully navigate his way through the largest project I have been a part of to date. So it seemed fitting that for this week we should interview Paul about the way he works.

Interview by Eliza Muldoon

Why did you take on the job as the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre Director?

The challenge. There are few opportunities in the arts and cultural industry to be involved in a project from the ground up. Also, I had done all that could be done in my role as director of the Cairns Regional Gallery, I had reached my intended goals and it was beginning to become repetitive.

There is never really just one reason though, it was actually a build-up of a whole lot of little reasons, one contributing reason for my family was actually cyclone seasons in Cairns- there was one really scary moment during cyclone Yasi that made us take stock of our decision to live in a cyclone region with a child.

What are the key aspects of you current role?

This role is very unique to where we are now. At the moment I’m a problem solver, HR specialist and building manager- good financial control is also crucial. Once we settle there will be a day-to-day focus on simultaneously pursuing the centre’s short and long-term goals and projects, always ensuring that I’m looking at today as well as 1 month to 10 years ahead. In that regard I need to be an ‘ideas’ person as well as a realist. I also want to ensure that our staff are engaged, happy, motivated and enjoying what we do.

You mentioned that HR is a current key feature of your role, what has guided you when putting together your team of staff?

Regional galleries require people with multiple skill sets and broad specialisations, they also need people that are willing to step outside those existing skills to expand their abilities. I’ve looked for people that have a passion for work and that would be willing to put in extra effort to ensure a dynamic work environment. There are also high expectations of staff within this Cultural Centre and it was important to find staff that are good decision makers, can handle challenges and bring solutions rather than problems.

Admittedly, it also has a lot to do with personalities. All of the staff are highly skilled, but it was also really important to ensure a good team. In this kind of environment, good people are those that appreciate and respect the contribution of everyone else here as we are so reliant on each other to work effectively.

What have been some of the greatest achievements in the project?

Finally opening the doors. Reflecting on the last year, we’ve achieved a lot. When I arrived we had no staff, no policies, procedures or protocols and we needed to establish a clear logistical operations plan. Now we have ideas that have been shaped into a reality, through a lot of a hard work.

Seeing people engage with the space and seeing them go ‘wow’ also feels like an achievement. People know it’s here but they don’t yet know how spectacular the facilities and location are.

What is your vision for how the Cultural Centre will serve the Blue Mountains?

The Cultural Centre is able to offer the highest quality professional visual experiences to audiences that appreciate it. We’ll also have a role in further developing that audience. The Cultural Centre spaces will host innovative programs driven by the interests of the people of the region.

There tend to be two ends of the spectrum in public arts ventures. At one end there are institutions that operate like community centres or pseudo drop- in centres, where the representation of art is secondary. At the other end you have curatorially driven projects where the emphasis is in art rather than the people. This cultural centre will sit in the middle, providing artistically driven, challenging programs but supporting them with tools to encourage engagement, even by reticent audiences.

Darren Hanlon

Musician and globe trotter Darren Hanlon speaks with arts interview this week on couch surfing, writing every day and how to maintain creative inspiration on the road. Hanlon’s interview is the first of our last set of interviews for the year, focusing on the way we work.

Interview by Heather Jennings

Do you currently have a permanent base to call home? How would you compare the way you work when you have a permanent base to when you are touring?

I don’t have a base and in fact the closest I’ve had to anything solid in three years is a space for a couple of months out the back of a Melbourne bookshop. Being a musician, there’s two sides to your working life: introverted and extroverted.

When I’m on tour and out and about there’s no real stability apart from the network of friends and their houses throughout the world where I stay after the shows. It’s a wonderful thing to have this global community. But more and more I’m missing the comfort of just having a neighbourhood and group of people I see every day and grow with.

As for writing, as it requires solitude and silence, it’s difficult to do on the road with any great success. Although if you try hard enough, you can train your mind to switch off and find its own cave to retreat into. You get really good at sitting down in a cafe with a laptop/notebook and looking up again to find its gotten dark outside.

How do you incorporate the diverse scenarios you come across in day-to-day life into your song writing and creative projects?

They always make their own way in. I find that when I’m in writing mode I’m more sensitive and open and observant to things happening around me. I tune into dialogue more. Songs on the radio etc… I always carry a notebook.

Are you conscious of delivering a certain amount of daily creative output when you are on the road, or do you go with the flow?

I try to go with the flow but will inevitably feel a bit low if there’s been no output for a few days. I combat this by writing a daily diary – I have been doing it religiously for years now, plus more polished longhand stories that are easier than songs to accomplish. That way, at least the pen is still moving.

What have you done to work more effectively in changing environments?

As always I seek out places to go (that are cheap) to be alone, to sit in a room and wait (hopefully!) for the good thoughts and ideas to arrive. Outback pubs, caravan parks, Eastern European cities etc. I think another huge reason for low-productivity is internet addiction. I try to stay away from that as much as possible.

Darren Hanlon is currently touring through Europe, find dates here.


Photo: courtesy of Mosman Council

These responses were recorded as part of the panel discussion Who You Know: Building Networks in the Arts at The Museum of Contemporary Art on June 9th 2012 .An event in partnership with arts interview and VIVID Sydney.

Original panel discussion chaired and transcribed by Eliza Muldoon

Peter Nelson completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts with First Class Honours and the University Medal for Fine Arts in 2006 at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. In 2011 he was an artist in residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris and won the Art and Australia Credit Suisse Private Banking Contemporary Art Award. He is currently finishing a Masters by Research at the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, developing a critical framework for analysing invented landscapes.

How do you manage the juggle between promoting your work and making your work?

I have a natural tendency to be isolated and work by myself. That has changed in the last few years though; I’ve found myself working with other people lately. That has broken down the distinction that I used to have, that either I was away by myself working or with others and being distracted from working. I now understand that I can work while being with other people and that promoting work feels like more of a part of making my work than it used to. I now think that being around others not only helps in building a profile it also is important because it allows you to put your work out there in your artistic community. Putting it out there forces you to engage in a community that challenges you intellectually.

I’ve seen a few interviews with you lately. How do you feel about doing interviews?

I often think I’ve said really silly things, things that I would not have said if I had responded via email. I’ve come to realise that interviews are not the worst thing in the world though. Somebody wants to talk to me about things that I’m interested in, things that I’m interested enough to build my career around. Usually we bore our friends to tears with that stuff. In an interview someone sits down with you and wants to talk with you about it for an hour!

How did the Cité (Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris) residency assist you with networking?

The Cité is unique partly because of its size. There are something like 218 studios in the one complex. There are always a lot of people around. Other residencies often have up to 8 studios. Everybody there is outside of their regular networks, their regular life and their regular commitments, so you have time to sit around and talk to them. These are people you might not otherwise get the chance to talk to, or perhaps might not otherwise ever be willing to talk to, simply because you are in awe of them.

An Italian architect and I actually ended up delivering a lecture together because we were both obsessed with particular periods of European architecture. That developed from a chance meeting and because we both had the time. We sat around and chatted and it evolved into a lecture.

What about follow-up? What advice do you have for maintaining a new professional relationship?

I think you need to make sure that communication is relevant. If you want to have a professional relationship with someone and remind them of your existence then it is good to have something valuable to say. I contact people a lot more when I have show coming up because I have something to contact them about- otherwise it would be a very strange email or telephone call.

The best connections happen when there is some purpose behind the communication.

How important do you think investing in a social media presence is for an artist?

It’s important. There is a blurred distinction on these platforms between your social life and your professional life though- they bleed into one another. It is a good way of putting things into the public forum without a whole lot of effort. You can also then build upon the discussion and interact with people. Most of the exhibitions I go to are via word of mouth or facebook. It’s where many day-to-day conversations happen, and it’s where many of the relationships are.


These responses were recorded as part of the panel discussion Who You Know: Building Networks in the Arts at The Museum of Contemporary Art on June 9th 2012 An event in partnership with arts interview and VIVID Sydney.

Original panel discussion chaired and transcribed by Eliza Muldoon

Julia Lenton is a freelance arts, theatre and music publicist and administrator. Julia has run successful arts, theatre and music publicity campaigns for clients such as Carriageworks, Performance Space, PACT centre for emerging artists, Siren Theatre Company, Emma Davis, super FLORENCE jam, Oxford St Design Store and Alaska Projects. Julia also recently worked as Marketing Co ordinator at Queen Street Studios.

As a publicist is it important for you to have strong networks? Perhaps yours need to be stronger than anyone else’s. I’m curious about whether you started as a publicist that honed in on the arts or whether you knew a lot of people in the arts and then became a publicist.

I worked in arts production throughout university, I was studying media and communications, as part of the degree I had to do an internship- that’s how I actually went into this. I thought about what I wanted to do for my internship and my best friend had done her internship at Sydney Festival- she got lots of free tickets to things and went to lots of parties. It seemed like both a lot of hard work and a lot of fun, so I applied for that internship, and I got it.

Prior to the internship I didn’t know much about publicity. We got taught PR, but I knew I didn’t want to do corporate PR, I didn’t want to do PR for grapes (I mean that’s fine- grapes need PR) but I didn’t want to do that.

I had loved Sydney Festival and I got asked to do some publicity after my internship. Soon after I called up Helene Fox, who had been Senior Publicist at Sydney Festival, but by then Helene had moved onto the Opera House, and I said to her ‘I think I’m becoming a publicist, can we have a drink and chat about that?’. When I met Helene she brought with her lots of emails from people that had wanted to hire her recently but she didn’t have time to do all of their work. So she suggested that she mentor me and we work together on the work. I was still at university at the time and felt  way in over my head for a long time.

How important do you think it is for an artist to have a public profile? To make yourself known?

I think it’s incredibly important. As a publicist it is much easier for me to work with someone that already puts themselves out there. I met an artist recently that said ‘I don’t want to be on facebook and I don’t want a twitter account, I don’t want to have any of that’. I respect that but they then can’t expect to have as much of a public profile and they may miss out on opportunities. Some artists are reluctant to do interviews, to engage with media or to have photos taken of themselves and I understand that it might feel like it doesn’t align with what they’re doing in their arts practice, but if they want people to come along and they want people to see the work then they have to give a little.

This week I had an example actually. Getting good artist images that I can give to the press sometimes feels like pulling teeth. I said to the artist that I needed a range of images, I need landscape and portrait and I need high res and he said that I want you to only use this image this way, but those limitations mean that the listing probably won’t run. I have to be a little bit hard-line.

What are the keys to good networking?

I think it’s about having genuine conversations with people. You’re in the wrong industry if you don’t actually want to chat to people about their art or what they’re doing. You might meet someone that you might not immediately want to work with but you take their business card and then maybe one day something will come up that they will be interested in, and when it does you’ll invite them along. You have to also respect people. Just because you may not want to work with them doesn’t mean you should look over their shoulder and go ‘alright, I’ll go and talk to someone else because there is nothing in this for me’. Who knows where they might one day be and what relationships might exist with them in the future. As a publicist I can’t ignore a blogger because one day they might be the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. Just be nice.


These responses were recorded as part of the panel discussion Who You Know: Building Networks in the Arts at The Museum of Contemporary Art on June 9th 2012 .An event in partnership with arts interview and VIVID Sydney.

Original panel discussion chaired and transcribed by Eliza Muldoon

Sebastian Goldspink is a Sydney based arts producer, gallerist and artist. In 2011 he opened Alaska Projects in an abandoned mechanics office in a Kings Cross car park and has since held numerous exhibitions in the space. Sebastian’s art practice is street based with a focus on advertising manipulation, he has shown at numerous artist run spaces and internationally. As an arts producer Sebastian has worked for various art organisations including the MCA, MONA and his current role as producer of Art Month Sydney.

You work across a lot of projects and roles, do you bring people with you to work across your various roles? If so, why?

It’s great to work with people that you like, to work with people that have a great work ethic and it’s also good to work with people that are into things that you’re into. Similarly, if you have a problem then you are naturally going to reach for people that have solved problems with you or for you in the past.

You know a lot of people- a lot. How did you meet them all?

I think for me personally it is a number of factors. I’m 40 years old, so I’ve been around for a while. I grew up in Sydney, I’ve never left Sydney and so Sydney is kind of my territory. I’ve worked both in the arts and in the film and TV industry and so I know people form both of those industries.

I think it’s also about being an active participant in the environment that you live in. I make an effort to go and be involved, instead of staying home and watching Game of Thrones I’m out and meeting people.

Has the development of your network been quite natural and organic or have you at times had quite a strategic approach?

I feel like I’m giving away a lot!

I think it’s both. I think sometimes it’s organic, say if I meet fellow panelist Julia (Julia Lenton features next week), we might just start talking about shows, if I meet an artist that I don’t know I’ll ask questions about their work. I’m interested, genuinely interested, and that’s an organic process of gathering information.

At the same time I can be strategic as well. If there is someone that I want to meet then I’ll research that person, I’ll learn information about that person, I’ll ask people in my networks about them too. If an opportunity arises I’ll make sure I have something to say to them. I think it’s a combination of strategy and organic development but I think there’s an opportunity to blend the two and consider strategy in a more organic way.

What advice do you have for those that want to start a relationship with an organisation that they need something from.

With all networking, or whenever you want to get something, it’s really great to think about the other side of the fence, who you are talking to, how does their mind work, what do they need? We set up an arts space in the basement of a Kings Cross car park. First we noticed that there was vacant space and we knew that it had been vacant for some time. We called up the City of Sydney and spoke to the parking services department and told them that we wanted to discuss the possibility of setting up this space. So they came down and met us, and part of their agenda was about public safety- they wanted to make it safer to be in the car park. They asked me if I thought having an art space there would make the car park safer. That was a concern I have never considered. I had never intended to open an art space to make Kings Cross safer, so that informed my future discussions and applications. Assume all councils are risk adverse, they aren’t cowboys, so always ensure that you have a response that is compatible with that.

My final advice on that is do your research. Get to know the organisation.

How important is volunteer work in your work in your opinion?

During my time at the MCA I would sit in on a couple of hundred job interviews a year. Sometimes people would dismiss something as ‘just volunteer work’ because they didn’t get paid, but from my perspective volunteering was an incredibly positive thing. I was actually a bit distrusting of people that had not volunteered. While there aren’t always paid jobs in the arts there a lot of unpaid opportunities and if you want to get a job in the arts you should take advantage of these.


Photo: Broadsheet

arts interview was invited by 2012’s Vivid Festival and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) to host a panel discussion about networking in the arts. We invited four diverse panelists to talk about the development of their network and the role of networking from their professional perspective.

Eliza Muldoon, Director

Lisa Havilah is the Director of Carriageworks, Redfern and previously held the position of Director at Campbelltown Arts Centre- a pioneering role that shaped the way in which institutions engage with cultural diversity and communities. Lisa was assistant director of Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and Liverpool Regional Museum between 1998 and 2004 and co-director of Project Contemporary Art Space in Wollongong between 1995 and 1998.

How important is it to locate and work with artists that are in the region that you are working in?

I have worked a lot in Western Sydney and whenever you are commissioning and producing contemporary art it is very important to consider the context of where you are working. Particularly the local context- we certainly did that in Campbelltown. On the other hand it’s very important to provide a national and international context for that very localised practice. So we always try to have a combination, a mix, of local, national and international perspectives in our programming.

In Redfern, at Carriageworks, we really look at the history, the context and the identity of Redfern. We engage artists that look at both contemporary Redfern and engage the history of Redfern.

How do you find those local artists? Do they find you?

I think when you are based in an institution you sometimes have to work hard to get outside those institutions to locate artists. When you are in such institutions there is a lot of information coming at you, all the time. You actually have to take the time to go and look at a lot of work- not just work that is easy to get to or easy to access. That actually takes a fair bit of commitment and investment. You need to look at what is happening locally on a range of levels. You have to look at local arts practice but you also have to engage with local ideas and consider what is happening across a range of disciplines.

How do you develop and maintain your relationships with artists once you’ve found them?

The relationships between artists, curators and producers are really critical, though I consider the work that I do to be artist led. A lot of the work I do at the institutions that I’m part of is to set up structures and environments that allow artists to lead the practice.

What factors influence an ongoing relationship? What makes you want to keep working with someone?

I have worked with some artists for many, many years. I think that has come about when we as an institution or I as a curator or producer have been able to deliver on the ambition of the artist and the artist, in turn, has been able to deliver on the expectation that we as an institution have placed back on them. That ongoing delivery and outcome over a long period of time allows the ambition levels to increase.

Does personality come into it?

Well, you always want to work with people that you like. I find that I want to have some sort of connection with the artist and their work. It’s easier to support them if you have empathy and investment in what they want to achieve.

How do you first identify people that you could or should get to know?

You look for the people that you want to work with you or alternatively people that you need something from, like the government. An example of this occurred when I was at an artist run initiative. We wanted money from the local council so we simply rang up the Mayor’s office and asked to meet him and then we asked him for money. You can’t be scared of knocking on their door and making contact. It’s certainly better to do that, ensuring that it is professional, rather than ask them at a social outing or situation.

It’s worth remembering that people want to help other people. You just need to understand their priorities and their policies and relate that to what your doing. It took some time to convince Campbelltown Council to invest in contemporary art but we came to understand that through contemporary art programs we could deliver whole sections of their social plan. It was important to talk about it within a broader local government context.

Finally, compulsory volunteering in the arts remains contentious, how important has volunteering been in developing your own network?

I think it’s the most important thing. I started in an artist run initiative and basically volunteered full time for three and a half years. I think that experience provided a whole range of professional opportunities that have served me throughout my whole career. I think it’s critical to make that investment.

These responses were recorded as part of the panel discussion Who You Know: Building Networks in the Arts at The Museum of Contemporary Art on June 9th 2012 .An event in partnership with arts interview and VIVID Sydney.

Original panel discussion chaired and transcribed by Eliza Muldoon


Amy Barrett-Lennard is the artistic director of PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts)  – an institution central to the contemporary art scene in Western Australia that exhibits an inspiring range of contemporary visual, performing and cross-disciplinary arts practices. Prior to her time at PICA, Amy was the Director of the Linden Centre for Contemporary Art in Melbourne and worked as a Curator in the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery and Goldfields Arts Centre Gallery in Kalgoorlie. She has also worked internationally as the manager of the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Amy talks to arts interview about the development of her career in the arts and what one might do who seeks the same.

Interview by Lydia Bradshaw

How important is the role of travel in establishing a successful career in the arts?

I have obviously travelled around quite a lot throughout my career – which has been great.  I am not sure it is totally necessary though as some people manage to get to senior positions by staying in the one city their whole lives!  I think it just gives you a breadth of experience you wouldn’t have otherwise and extends your network – which is always helpful. Having a thorough and first-hand knowledge of arts practices nationally and/or internationally is also always very desirable.

How big a factor is outside support for a cultural institutions’ prosperity?

Almost all cultural institutions require outside support – their ability to generate income from internal “business” activities is always quite limited and would definitely not sustain ongoing programs.  So outside support then generally comes from the Government in the form of grants and funding and from the private sector in the form of sponsorships, donations and philanthropic grants. With static government funding arts organisations are increasingly relying on the latter.

What experience or initiatives would you recommend to individuals aspiring towards careers in arts management? 

I would highly recommend volunteering, undertaking internships or initiating your own projects.  The first show I ever curated was one that I initiated with a friend and a bunch of artists – did totally without any payment and “afterhours” on top of my day job – and had to raise all the funds for it myself – but it was a great experience and a great start to a career in the arts.

I would also recommend taking on roles that offer a level of autonomy; an opportunity to make a significant difference and that can help you develop leadership skills.  These seem to be the kinds of jobs I have had and clearly have been drawn to. They have been enormously rewarding and have always lead to ever more exciting and challenging positions.


In September 2013 Australia’s new art fair, Sydney Contemporary will launch.  Francesca Valmorbida is the Art Fair Director of Sydney Contemporary and gave up some of her time to share her thoughts with arts interview. Sydney Contemporary will be held at Carriageworks, 20th – 22nd September 2013.

Interview by Leanne Rich

What does Sydney Contemporary do?

Sydney Contemporary is Australia’s newest art fair presenting modern and contemporary artwork including painting, sculpture, new media, photography and performance from leading Australian and international galleries. Essentially, it is a commercial platform for outstanding visual art; an event that brings together artists, gallerists, new and established collectors, and people who are generally interested in visual art – whether they are a seasoned collector or first time buyer.

What is your role within Sydney Contemporary?

As Director, my role is to collaborate, plan and deliver an art fair that everyone wants to be a part of. I work with a broad range of people – colleagues, contractors, selection committee members, ambassadors, institutions, corporations, sponsors, curators, art lovers, collectors and of course gallery owners – it’s exciting.

You have been involved in art events all over Australia, how do the states compare in promoting the local and international art industries?

Each Australian state is unique with its own personality and cultural focus. Sydney has not yet hosted a high end art fair and we have some fabulous art galleries, both public and private. As a new art fair, we will be primarily concerned with educating local audiences as to the role of a fair, and international audiences as to the richness of Sydney’s cultural scene.

How does Australia become an international contender in the art scene?

Australia is an international contender and we should perhaps stop questioning this and enjoy the abundance of talent we have on offer.

What strategy are you using to engage the Asia Pacific Regions?

Sydney Contemporary is open to applications from all new and established galleries who present excellent work by modern or contemporary artists. We welcome applications from commercial galleries across the Asia Pacific and beyond with a consistent history of exhibition. Sydney Contemporary is a dynamic event that has been developed to international standards and is exciting and enticing international galleries.

How would you like to see the future unfold for the arts sector in Australia?

Ideally, I would like to see Australians revel in the breadth of the arts available in this country and regularly attend the many cultural events, performances and exhibitions that surround them. Many public, and all commercial, galleries are free to enter, and I would like to see Australians take more time to drop in to local galleries for example, and to experience the work of some inspiring artists first hand. Online has its place, but there is nothing like seeing an artwork in the flesh.