ABOUT CHRISTA BILLICH
Born in Munich Germany, Christa Billich is the business mind behind the Billich success story. Married to Charles Billich for over 30 years, and general manager of the Billich Gallery in Sydney’s The Rocks, Christa Billich is well-known in her own right amongst art collectors both in Australia and overseas.
Emigrating to Australia in the 1980s, Christa Billich starting her career in Melbourne, where she was a successful fine jewellery store owner. The high profile business began on Melbourne’s upmarket Collins Street in the city’s CBD and grew in size to include two other stores in the Melbourne City area. It was a highly rewarding moment in her career says Christa.
“It was a dream come true. I enjoyed my work very much.”
It was a desire for artwork in her apartment that drew Christa to meet Charles Billich during the 1980s. Charles Billich was known for his big personality and playboy antics at this period in his life but when Christa met Charles she said she saw something else.
“He seemed quieter, less of a showman than what they said about him. He was also very much into cooking and entertaining, I loved that about him.”
That first meeting Christa bought four Billich nudes from Charles and, not long after, their relationship formed.
Charles and Christa Billich married in Croatia, Charles’ birthplace, and returned to Melbourne with big plans for their married life. After a period of including Billich’s work into her jewellery store, Christa eventually closed her business and went into full-time partnership with Charles to open up the Billich Gallery, first in Melbourne, then in Sydney’s The Rocks, where the Gallery remains to this day.
“I liked his ideas, the way he wanted to go ahead and accomplish what he wanted to achieve.”
A dedicated animal lover and supporter of animal charities, Christa says her strength lies in her passion and her ability to think outside the box. Very much the business and strategic mind of the partnership, Christa Billich has been instrumental in the Billich Gallery’s success over her and Charles’ 30 year partnership.
“We are an unlikely team but it works.”
Christa’s international mindset and unique way of promoting art has gained Charle’s Billich incredible success not just in Australia but across the globe.
“I have always believed that Australia was not our only market. We went into the Chinese market in 1996 when there was no money there. Now we have a wonderful relationship with China. Today Charles is an official artist of Beijing, and has enjoyed phenomenal success in the Chinese market.”
“MAD Women” – interviews with Christa Billich
Christa Billlich talks to the Mad Women program in a no-holds-barred series of interviews where she speaks candidly about her early life in Munich, her commitment to female empowerment and her unconventional marriage to prominent Australian artist Charles Billich.
CONVERSATIONS WITH CHRISTA BILLICH
We talk to Christa Billich about her long business partnership and marriage to Charles Billich, why they chose to establish the Billich Gallery in The Rocks, Sydney, and the secret to their success.
WHEN YOU FIRST MET, WHAT WAS IT ABOUT CHARLES BILLICH THAT YOU LOVED SO MUCH?
I was told that Charles Billich was a playboy. He had been voted the Worst Dressed Man in Melbourne… there was always something in the papers about him back then. But when I met him in person, I felt there was more to him. He was kind, and less of the showman that they said he was. He also loved entertaining and cooking; I loved that about him. But what I really liked was his ideas; the way he wanted to go ahead and accomplish what he wanted to achieve.
YOU HAVE BEEN MARRIED AND WORKING TOGETHER FOR THIRTY YEARS. HOW HAVE YOU MADE THIS WORK?
We are an unlikely team but it works. We both have the same ideas about the goals we have wanted to achieve. In life you always have two choices; to go or to stay. We were always happy to give it a try.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO ESTABLISH THE BILLICH GALLERY IN SYDNEY’S THE ROCKS AREA?
I love the Rocks area and it really is our home now; we have been here 20 years. I knew that I needed to be in an area where the audience was always changing because I am not changing the artist. The Rocks is a hub for art, business and tourism so it was ideal.
LATER THIS YEAR, A COLLECTION OF DALI SCULPTURES WILL GO ON EXHIBITION AT THE BILLICH GALLERY. CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT THIS?
Dali Sculptures has never gone on exhibition in Australia before so it is a great honour. The exhibition will show here in October - December 2018. We are really excited; Salvator Dali and Charles Billich together is a great match.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE SECRET BEHIND CHARLES’S SUCCESS?
First of all, Charles’s art; if you don’t have the art then you have nothing to promote. But we are also a good team. We have a common desire. Whatever people say — some of it might be true, some not — we have a fabulous relationship.
YOU HAVE DONE SO MUCH TO HELP CHARLES GET TO THE LEVEL OF SUCCESS HE NOW HAS. WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR SECRET?
Being from another country really did always make me think that there were other markets out there other than Australia. We went into the Chinese market in 1996 when there was no money there. Now we have a wonderful relationship with China. We are always trying new markets, meeting new people and discovering their energy. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes it doesn’t. You have to be prepared for that; the less you expect out of something, the better. I like to just let things unfold.
YOU HAVE A LOT OF CONTACTS IN OTHER COUNTRIES. CHARLES HAS JUST HAD AN EXHIBITION IN MONACO FOR EXAMPLE.
Yes, we have just finished an exhibition in Monaco in a gallery called Gallery 22. I see it as important to have constant contact with other countries so we are always discussing opportunities in places such as China, Europe and the US.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHARLES THAT YOU LOVE?
We have achieved things. I also love that I have been able to create something. I am always adding to it and, in doing so, I am adding to my life experience.