On the Couch with Kate Barber

Spring-1883-Kate-BarberWho is Kate Barber?
I’ve been working in the contemporary arts sector in Melbourne for over three decades, most recently with Vikki McInnes as co-director of Sarah Scout Presents, a commercial gallery launched in 2009, with a focus on the representation of women artists.

We’ve just closed the doors on our Collins Street gallery and are in the process of relocating to exciting new premises in Collingwood. I’m also a Director of Spring1883, an art fair that was founded by Neon Parc and Sarah Scout Presents, that was launched in 2014 at The Hotel Windsor.

For a week in August over 25 Australasian art galleries take up residence in the hotel, presenting contemporary art in the rooms and suites where it rubs up against the faded grandeur of The Windsor.

Spring1883 was founded as a way of challenging the traditional art fair model – based on the white-cube gallery – to create something a bit more experiential. It’s exciting for visitors who never know quite what they’ll encounter behind each door they walk through.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
In the arts it can be commonplace to juggle different roles simultaneously. Post pandemic I’m finding that juggle harder to sustain, so I’d look to consolidate. Alternatively, I always wanted to be a rock photographer.

Who inspires you and why?
Australian, London-based curator, novelist, and editor Jennifer Higgie, who has undertaken considerable work to redress historic imbalances in the way women artists have been recognised. Higgie hosts a podcast titled Bow Down, each episode features a woman artist, author, curator, or historian nominating a woman artist from the past and explaining why we should all ‘bow down’ to them.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Provide a basic living wage to artists allowing them the financial stability to focus on their creative practice.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Madrid, for the culture, lifestyle, and cuisine. For an inland city, surprisingly it has some of the best seafood in Spain. I love that you can visit world class museums, like the Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyssen-Bornemisza, have a siesta and then go out all night on a bar and tapas crawl and mingle with multiple generations of Madrileños.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Melbourne has one of the most robust contemporary arts scenes in Australia. Locally, I’d take them to visit several galleries around Brunswick, including established galleries like Neon Parc and Daine Singer, to younger spaces like The Wandering Room and Animal House, which has just launched. Of course, we’d fit in a trip to the institution that is the A1 Bakery on Sydney Road.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished poet and author Lisa Gorton’s wonderfully evocative novel The Life of Houses and I’m currently enjoying The First Astronomers by Duane Hamacher, about how Australia’s Indigenous elders read the stars.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m having massive Succession withdrawal, so I’m eking out listening to HBO’s companion podcast episode recap.

Happiness is?
The Age being delivered on a Sunday morning and with no plans, I can enjoy the crossword and my poached eggs, which my partner cooks to perfection for me every Sunday without complaint.

What does the future hold for you?
If the stars align a trip to Spain to see UK band Suede play at The Alhambra, it’s one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture and the eighth wonder of the world.

Kate is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Spring 1883 – an exciting hotel-based art fair – which will be held at The Hotel Windsor, Melbourne from 9 – 12 August 2023. For more information, visit: www.spring1883.com for details.

Image: Kate Barber (supplied)