‘Something unexpected hits you when you’re in this apartment,’ says businessman-turned-full-time-artist-and-photographer Barry Salzman. He’s right. After stepping away from the buzzing streets of Clifton, the sudden quiet in his apartment is disarming. The energy that usually informs this popular coastline all but evaporates, making way for a more contemplative and serene atmosphere – Barry cherishes this, having worked in the corporate world abroad for over 30 years.
‘My apartment in New York enabled me to experience what was beyond its walls. When I am here though,’ he says, ‘it’s the exact opposite. This apartment wants to keep me contained. The joy and pleasure of living comes from being inside.’ It struck him the first time he saw the apartment, which at that stage wasn’t for sale. Seeing its potential, he made an offer the previous owners accepted. ‘I don’t like using the word “fate”,’ says Barry, ‘but it feels that way.’
While minor elements were updated during the short renovation period, there was very little work done to the three-bedroom apartment, which was once two separate units. ‘The renovation project was really about finishes,’ he says. ‘The floors, ceilings and joinery were all redone but, architecturally, everything is the same as it was. The layout worked so well that I didn’t want to change it.’ It was during the decorating process that Barry could make the space his own. ‘I wanted to use the apartment as a canvas to survey the local contemporary furniture and art scene,’ he says. ‘I wanted to tap into what is happening here in South Africa, so I spent a lot of time researching local designers and artists.’
Virtually everything in the apartment is by the finest designers and artists in South Africa. Among them are pieces by Vogel Design, Laurie Wiid and Dokter and Misses. Save for a self-portrait by Zanele Muholi – and elsewhere in the house another self-portrait by Tony Gum – all the photographs on the walls are by Barry, whose work often deals with difficult and painful subjects. Two such works are on opposite ends of his dining and living rooms; slightly-larger-than-life prints of women who survived the Holocaust at Auschwitz.
‘I want the art in my home, including my work, to be challenging,’ he says, ‘I want it to invoke conversation. I don’t believe important topics should be saved for spaces like schools and museums. The minute we permit ourselves to stop engaging with these issues,’ he adds, ‘we become complicit.’ Barry considers his apartment home in many ways, but also as an exhibition space. It’s the duality that exists in this seaside home-cum-gallery that makes it interesting. Barry’s exhibition, ‘The Other Side of Christmas’, will run until the end of December at the Deepest Darkest gallery in De Waterkant, Cape Town, and will explore life in the United States that exists beyond the veil of its image of equality and opportunity.
Take a look inside the Cape Town apartment below: