Art fairs like the annual week-long Art Basel Miami Beach in December, or Art Basel Hong Kong in May, have a tendency to elevate cities not usually associated with cutting-edge contemporary art to become international art hubs. Until very recently, Sydney hasn’t exactly been synonymous with exciting and innovative contemporary art. But that’s in the process of changing.

“Engagement with contemporary art has been on the rise in Sydney,” says Barry Keldoulis, director of Sydney’s inaugural international art fair, Sydney Contemporary. Art fairs are vibrant, high-end festivals where commercial galleries show off emerging and established talent to local and visiting collectors, curators, gallerists and art enthusiasts.

According to Keldoulis, the scene is changing in Sydney and developing rapidly as we overcome what he refers to as “a fear of contemporary art”. New art-focused initiatives like Art and About, as well as the increased visual art components of festivals like Chinese New Year, have all been facilitating this shift. On the last day of Kaldor Public Art Projects’ 13 Rooms, held at Sydney’s Pier 2/3 earlier this year, the queue to enter the 11-day performance art exhibition stretched on for hundreds of metres. The MCA hosted one million attendees over the last year and the 2012 Biennale of Sydney drew a record crowd.

Sydney Contemporary will be held over three days in September at Eveleigh’s Carriageworks art precinct and will feature 40 per cent international galleries, as well as leading Sydney and Melbourne commercial spaces like Olsen Irwin, Rolsyn Oxley9 and Anna Schwartz Gallery. Unlike other international art fairs, Sydney Contemporary will also include space for artist run initiatives – Art Guide will present Sydney ARIs Alaska Projects and Firstdraft. The public programme also includes a series of talks, the Installation Contemporary program with an exhibition of large-scale sculpture and Video Contemporary, which will focus specifically on moving image artworks.

The international fair will support Sydney’s existing contemporary art scene, but also nurture its growth and recognition on greater, global scale. Keldoulis is excited about contemporary art in Sydney. He says Sydney Contemporary will enable us to “see art in the context of what’s going on elsewhere in the world”.

Sydney Contemporary will be held at Carriageworks from September 20 to 22. See sydneycontemporary.com.au for more details.