Jason Smith at Heide Museum of Modern Art.

Jason Smith at Heide Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Paul Jeffers

What artwork has best captured your sense of the city?

It's Louise Forthun's Melbourne Cemetery. There's something about the proximity of the Melbourne General Cemetery to Melbourne University and the city centre that intrigues me. I have a rather gothic sensibility. I like the night and cemeteries, and this is quintessentially Melbourne for me. I'm intrigued that such a vast necropolis exists in the city centre. I also find it intriguing for the sheer volume of famous identities buried there.

The doorway you would most like to go through?

The Scenic Railway at Luna Park.

The Scenic Railway at Luna Park. Photo: John Donegan

I was recently walking up Burnett Street, St Kilda, which is full of marvellous 19th- and early 20th-century buildings. There's a magnificent Victorian terrace with a doorway I have fantasised about walking through for many, many years. It's got two Addams Family-type white towers, again appealing to my gothic sensibility. It's not a house that keeps its blinds down, so it constantly tempts and it seems filled with life and style.

Is there a place that was a turning point for you?

The photo on the right is me at the age of 31 in my role at the National Gallery of Victoria as a curator of contemporary art. I was embarking on my curatorial career - about to enter into the complexities of working for a major museum and the sheer passion and privilege of working closely with artists on major exhibitions. It was an intense period and I was aware this was a decade in which I needed to establish myself in terms of a career.

Bistrot d'Orsay, Collins Street.

Bistrot d'Orsay, Collins Street. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

Your favourite public space?

I have to say the Heide gardens. They're a hidden treasure - six hectares of cultivated garden in suburbia. I use the gardens for my thinking time. In the daily stresses of running the museum, they restore peace to my mind. It's a wonderful, immediate immersion in nature.

A good people-watching spot?

Jason Smith as a 31-year-old at NGV.

Jason Smith as a 31-year-old at NGV.

If you can score the window seat at Bistrot d'Orsay on Collins Street and sit there with a glass of wine and a bowl of pasta, particularly during the Comedy Festival, it's fabulous for people-watching. There's a constant parade of ''life's rich pageant''. My grandmother was a people-watcher and it took me a long time to understand that I love watching people also. It's not voyeurism - it's a genuine interest in my fellow human beings.

What's your favourite sign?

I live in St Kilda and drive down Punt Road every day. My favourite sign is the Nylex clock on the silos - I dread the day they get developed. Even though the clock no longer works, which is a pain, it's like a last stand in a world of endless redevelopment. The silos are a beautiful structure, a resilient sign of not just the past but an important part of our present. I look at the Nylex sign every day to burn it into my memory as my own way of protecting it.

The Nylex clock is Jason Smith's favourite sign.

The Nylex clock is Jason Smith's favourite sign. Photo: James Davies

Is there a view that makes you feel good?

In the middle of Albert Park Lake is an island that's a sanctuary for birdlife. Again, this appeals to my gothic sensibility as it's a dark-green, verdant island inaccessible to us. I like to imagine the incredible community of black swans, ducks, various water birds roosting there in the evening, protected. It's a mysterious abode that I can't reach but it's a sanctuary for these beautiful creatures. I'm totally into birds. If I hadn't been an art historian, I would have been an ornithologist.

Your most recent discovery?

Recently, I went to the 100th birthday party of Luna Park. I discovered that it's possible as a mid-40s adult to still scream like a schoolboy for three hours. I went on more rides than I've been on in my entire life. The rides are a great liberation; it's good to scream and laugh and get scared. It's cathartic to let go of all your inhibitions when you're upside down. And the view from the Scenic Railway at sunset is brilliant.