It is early morning in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, and the sun is shining over the vineyards, the quiet townships and the converted farmhouse that is home to Wonderground Barossa. Inside, the gallery’s founders, Kirsty Kingsley and Renée de Saxe, are ready to talk — as soon as the yoga class in the next room finishes up, that is.
Yoga may seem an unlikely activity for this space, but for de Saxe and Kingsley, who last year opened the Barossa’s first commercial contemporary gallery, such spaces should be about more than what is hung on the walls.
“Like libraries, art galleries are a space where people come together,” says Kingsley. Far from stopping at yoga sessions, the pair has also started selling picnic hampers to be enjoyed on the grounds, and plans to introduce art classes. It’s a bold agenda for two people who are new to the gallery game.
Kingsley only took up art after de Saxe, whom she bumped into at school pickup, invited her to join her class. (“She asked me if I was creative and because I had resolved to say yes to everything that year, I had to say yes,” recounts Kingsley.)
Back in 2020, they helped organise Wanderlust Greenock, a one-day event that turned the Barossa village of Greenock into an open-air gallery and street party. That experience, along with subsequent artist-led pop-up projects, opened their eyes to the fact that the Barossa, best known for its wine and food scene, has a thriving artistic community. “We really started to uncover how broad the talent is here,” says de Saxe. “People often work invisibly — they travel for work and use the Barossa as a base.” She and Kingsley figured that a gallery would provide local artists with a place to meet and connect. “If you play cricket, you hang out at the cricket club — but there is no such thing as an art clubhouse,” says Kingsley.
After several fruitless months spent trying to interest various bodies in funding a permanent gallery, de Saxe and Kingsley decided to do it themselves.
They looked at several properties and settled on a farmhouse with glorious views of Seppeltsfield and Marananga. The vineyards that came with it were an added bonus. De Saxe and Kingsley are both married to vignerons and their husbands, Luke Edwards and Nick Radford, are using the grapes to make Provençal-style wine under the label Mirus Vineyards (its inaugural single-estate wines will be available later this year; in the meantime, visitors can sample their Wonderground range, made with South Australian grapes, at the gallery).
Since its opening last July, Wonderground Barossa has hosted a number of exhibitions showcasing the work of local artists in a range of styles, from Emma Fuss’s floral still lifes to Sonya Unwin’s vivid depictions of light and Beryl Hunter’s bushscapes. Kingsley hopes the gallery will create connections in the community and raise awareness of the region’s artists.
“The Barossa as a brand was always about wine until Maggie Beer started with food,” she says, then points out that many famed wine regions, from Napa to Tuscany, are also art destinations. “We have so many people doing great things with art here. We want that to become known.”