Metro 5 is a new gallery which opened on High St Armadale Melbourne in late March, promoting itself as a different business model for a commercial gallery, one which they claim will challenge the way most galleries do business. The difference, they say, is that work by well-known artists is bought outright and sold on to the public. Metro 5's 2001 Program reveals three solo showings, five stock shows and two more under the title of group shows. There is obviously no law, written or unwritten, which prevents a gallery buying up work and selling it on for a profit. It happens in many commercial galleries after all. The dead white males for sale at Metro 5 include Arkley, Boyd, Perceval, Pugh, Tucker, Nolan, Whiteley and Williams and for on-selling this is a pretty standard list.
Metro 5 however claims that it is not going to be just another dealer in pre-owned work, (the so-called secondary market) in that they aim "to sign up mid-career, established artists to produce works for the gallery on an exclusive contract and on a pre-paid basis". When Artrave checked with the PR firm who appear to be the only conduit to Metro 5, we were told they meant exclusive in Victoria. To date not many have been signed up for exclusive representation even in Victoria (Robert Jacks, David Rankin, Tim Storrier, Yvonne Audette, and a few others) but it's early days yet. The incentive of cash up front, wining and dining with the big end of town and the prospect of instant wealth, could be a heady cocktail for some. The recent closure of Robert Lindsay Gallery has also left a few artists without representation in Victoria.
The list of the living artists who are being merely shown and sold rather than signed up, is longer and includes some big names – Charles Blackman, John Olsen, Jeffrey Smart, Peter Booth, Richard Larter, Andrew Sibley, Jan Senbergs. It seems unthinkable that any of these will find the grass green enough on High St to sever bonds with their long-term dealers. Those who have lived long enough, (and who are not desperate for the money) will be smart enough to realize that anything remotely related to the investment market is likely to involve a very short-term gain indeed. Others may just not be able to deal with the décor.
The directors of Metro 5 are five very wealthy men; a pharmacist, property developer, McDonald's franchisee, doctor and an art consultant, all "with a shared passion for art" and the kind of big art collections which reflect this. With a million dollars worth of sales in the first two weeks it looks as if their passion for art is about to be consummated in terms of a very sizeable return on their investment. Since the late eighties it has certainly become more common for galleries to be bankrolled by a business backer, but the arrangement until now has been more usually that of a tax write-off.
Metro 5 seems to signal the final loss of innocence for Australian art dealing. The secondary market blok has been growing in strength and size over the past few years, a significant event being Deutscher Galleries ceasing to operate as a gallery and becoming an auction house. The growth in demand created a shortage of blue chip art which has led to younger artists being sought out to supply the market, and the elevation of their prices through strategic placing of works in auction catalogues. The substitution of works of art for stocks and shares now seems to be going at a great rate, the market demanding ever more product to stuff into its insatiable maw, though no sooner is the work ingested than up it comes again for resale, and so the cycle continues.
Many traditional gallerists and dealers in Australia find this somewhat repugnant, particularly those who have the interests of their artists at heart. After all, as long as royalties are not paid when a work is resold there is no benefit to artists or their estates and while the creation of new record prices for living artists may be welcome these are not always reflected in primary sales which are of course mainly new work untested in the market, and perhaps a little difficult for some to appreciate. The level of sensitivity and understanding of the likes of the company directors of Metro 5 (let us not forget the art qualifications of these estimable gents – one of whom owns no less than seven McDonald's outlets in Melbourne) is attested to by the publicity material which announces that they will be representing "both artists and sculptors". If that is does not say it all, let it be known that they are dealing in "serious as opposed to decorative art". (seriously pricey?) And we are told that Ms Karen Woodbury, the Gallery Director, (formerly of Deutscher Menzies auction house) has "visited all the major art galleries in the world." Quite a feat. Including, one would hope, a couple of return visits to the especially major ones, like Saatchi.
So maybe it was inevitable that a vacuum would appear in the system – investors out there baying for product, gallerists not prepared to play the game. Into the breach step our five gallant businessmen, investment-ready, fully geared with the right contacts, creating the right ambience for their corporate colleagues, (none of that off-putting empty white cube, frosty reception kind of outfit) and who should be there encouraging them right from the start but the former Victorian premier Jeffrey Kennett.
As a mere purveyor of stuff about the nature of art, the universe and everything, Artrave naively wonders what artists really feel about seeing their latest work turn into a bottom line for an investor. Until recently it has not been a problem many Australian artists have had to confront. The world is an amazing place.
Life of Brian
The Director of the National Gallery Brian Kennedy is on a five year contract which will be up around October 2002. The Opposition is ringing alarm bells in relation to a rumour that the government is about to renew his contract (worth around $250,000 p.a.) in their opinion not only prematurely but without following due process by advertising the job.
So it is unclear whether Dr Kennedy thought that by buying the newly completed painting After Cézanne by English artist Lucien Freud for around $7.4 million, he would improve his chances of reappointment with the two arts ministers Alston and McGauran. The painting it seems is something over its market price, but represents a must have for the Director who is reported to have personally bargained for it, in typical enthusiastic (obsessive?) Kennedy style, directly from the artist's studio. Freud is so fashionable at present that there is a waiting list for his new paintings. One wonders at the logic of this as a way to acquire works especially when his last over-the-top purchase of the Hockney A Bigger Grand Canyon has had a very ho-hum result. In topsy-turvy fashion it may be that his decision helps the twin mins onto the benches of the Opposition later this year, at least if large sections of the arts community have anything to do with it.
EXHIBITIONS TO WATCH
" John Wolseley: Tracing the Wallace Line transforms the gallery into a pseudo museum room, examining the point at which the Australian and Asian biological and geographical domains meet. Bendigo Art Gallery 7 July – 12 August.
" Home is where the heart is is an exhibition of contemporary works examining attitudes of 'belonging' in Australia. Australian women have been the pioneers in coming to terms with a new land and indigenous culture in Australia according to curator Vivonne Thwaites who is working with the Country Women's Association in this Federation-funded project. Tour starts at The Old Post Office, Burra 6 July - 2 August and then to University of SA Art Museum 14 September to Saturday 20 October, Port Pirie and Port Augusta November - January
" Seeing through Landscape is new landscape photography by Cath Bowdler, Jason Davidson Hampton, Phillip George, Ian North, Patricia Piccinini, Julia Tolonen, Martin Walch, Gary Weber, Pamela Lofts and Heather Winter. Celebrating as well as reading in a more complex way, the grandeur of nature. Australian Centre for Photography Sydney 15 June – 15 July.
" Telling Tales: the Child in Contemporary Photography is on at the University of SA Art Museum 7 June – 14 July. (see editorial this issue)
" snow.noise is an installation in which snow crystals are created artificially and can be viewed surrounded by electronic music, drawing, photography and video. Multi-disciplined visiting German artist Carsten Nicolai is having his first Australian solo show at the Art Gallery of NSW 29 June – 5 August.
" John Dowie Retrospective covers eight decades (1935 – 2000) and includes over 50 works by the 87 year-old South Australian sculptor; at Carrick Hill in Adelaide until 30 June.
" Intersections of Art and Science is an exhibition which coincides with the 5th International ISIS-Symmetry Congress in Sydney, and celebrates diverse approaches to the meeting of art and science. Ivan Dougherty Gallery until 14 July.
[SCAN OF JULIE TOLMIE DIGITAL IMAGE FOR INTERSECTIONS]
" Polly Borland Australians is a series of photographic portraits of expats in Britain on at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill Vic 2 July – 5 August.
" Happy Birthday Earth: Kids Mapping Their World - children from Australia and around the world share their visions of their environment and culture. Organised by Kids Earth Fund (Australia) Inc. National Gallery of Australia 28 July – 4 November
"Winterbodies seven installations at the Royal Adelaide Showground by India Flint, Agnieska Golda, Lisa Harms, Julie Henderson, Frances Phoenix, Stephanie Radok and Zofia Sleziak, all graduating this year from the Masters Program of the SA School of Art, UniSA 17, 20, 22, 23, 24 June, 2001, 1 - 5pm, Leader St Entrance.
[SCAN OF INDIA FLINT'S WORK FROM WINTERBODIES]
" Ph*** (2001) is an exploration by emerging artist Anthea Behm of audience response to imagery in today's image-laden society. The elements of her exhibition of 'fine art photography' – a real live telephone (on a plinth), an empty frame waiting for a picture, a photo series of female nudes, a glass case containing tear-off strips of telephone numbers from street advertising, and a phone number which appears repeatedly on the other images - are all conceived of as different ways of testing the viewer. Outside the gallery a month before the show opens, first the phone number and later the other images will appear on lamp posts, bus shelters, t-shirts and beer coasters. What will the signifiers signify on the streets of Sydney? Will the phone ring in the gallery? If it does who will answer and what will they say? Room 36, Gitte Weiss Gallery, Paddington 27 June – 21 July.
[PIC OF NUDE PHOTO PINNED TO POLE]
" Sanctity and Mystery: the Symbolist Art of Rupert Bunny comprises paintings and works on paper from the 1980s when Bunny flirted with the mysticism which was fashionable at the time, and which has its artistic expression in the Symbolist movement. Ian Potter Museum of Art, Univ of Melbourne, until 29 July.
Kathleen Petyarre: Genius of Place is a survey of 25 years of the artist's work over from her early batiks to her recent paintings. Museum of Contemporary Art, until 22 July.
Awards and Commissions
" Winner of the City of Hobart Art Prize this year in the Photo/digital Media category was Sarah Ryan for The Real Escape and in the Fashion category Denise Sprynskyj and Peter Boyd of S!X for their garment Re-cut. Claudia Passera, Tiffany Winterbottom and David Martin received other prizes and commendations.
" Robert Nelson, art critic for The Age and occasional writer for Artlink has been honoured with the 2000 Pascall Prize for Critical Writing. The $15,000 cash award was judged by four past Pascall winners.
" Karen Ward is the winner of the $80,000 Helen Lemprière Sculpture Prize (see review this issue)
" Raymond Arnold, Alexis Beckkett, Tim Jones and Rew Hanks were the winners of the 2001 Geelong Print Prize.
" Monika Tichacek-Damhuis is the winner of the $40,000 Helen Lemprière Travelling Scholarship for emerging artists, with a video and mixed media installation.
" Joan Brassil has completed a large sculptural commission for the Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery Sculpture Garden titled A Tether of Time.
[PIC OF THIS WORK BUT IT IS VERY LOW RES MAY NOT BE OK]
" Aaron Robinson was one of only 8 to received an award at the international craft fair Talente 2001 in Munich in March for his Bug Lights which he developed as an Associate at the JamFactory in Adelaide.
" The 8th International Works on Paper Fair (IWOPF'01) is a biennial event and the only one of its kind in Australia. Galleries and print workshops from around the world are showing drawings, prints, computer generated images, photographs etc. Byron Kennedy Hall, Fox Studios, Moore Park Sydney 25 – 29 July, $12/$8 (includes catalogue).
" The COFA International Drawing Conference explores the evolution of drawing from ancient forms to today's digital hybrids. Guest speaker Deanna Petherbridge from the Royal College of Art, London. 24-25 August, details from Megan Cook (02) 9385 0674 email@example.com
SALA Week is on again in August. South Australian Living Artists' Week has achieved much in its first two editions to promote the visual arts in SA and founder Paul Greenaway has moved to incorporate it, place it under the umbrella of the Adelaide Festival Centre and generally set it on an autonomous path.
" Tasmania's first arts festival Ten Days on the Island has been pronounced an outstanding success and artistic director Robyn Archer has been invited to advise again for the 2003 festival. Artlink's March issue Taking in Water was launched by Senator Bob Brown at the festival to great acclaim.
" The Brisbane Powerhouse is hosting a 4 day festival of ideas, innovation and invention from 16 - 19 August. You can also participate now in their online discussion
" Light Square Gallery opened in March 2001 in the new Roma Mitchell Arts Education Centre of the Adelaide Institute of TAFE, and is now home to the former North Adelaide School of Art. The Gallery, in a lively end of town near the City West campus of the University of SA, adds to Adelaide's wealth of inner-city non-profit art spaces, but its awkward proportions and siting in the basement have disappointed some. In other respects the building, which is also the home to the TAFE's former Performing Arts Centre looks to be adequate to the needs of both, though students are already complaining that there is nowhere to eat or socialize, the response to which has been the installation of a couple of vending machines in the foyer. Architects Hassell and Partners, whose stamp is on so many public buildings in Adelaide, are not renowned for their user-friendly touch. The University of SA is winding down its campus at Underdale which will be sold in 2004. Faculties and departments, including painting, sculpture and photography, will be spread among other campuses around Adelaide.
" ACCA (The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art) will be moving into its new premises soon in the busy Southbank arts precinct of Melbourne just down from the NGV and within reach of the new Federation Square cultural blok. The stakes are high for architects Wood Marsh in an era where museums and art galleries have become the global symbol of high style and competitive firms of Melbourne architects are outdoing each other in feats of architectural audacity (cf Melbourne Museum, National Museum of Australia).
Oz art Overseas
" New Zealand and Singapore are staging their first official showing in Venice during the Venice Biennale this year. Two artists of Maori and European descent, Jacqueine Fraser and Peter Robinson are representing New Zealand and will show site-specific installations in the St Appolonia Museum behind Palazzo Ducale, by St Mark's Square. The Singaporean selection of four artists, also being shown near St Mark's, is being managed by the Singapore Art Museum.
" Dreamtime: the Dark and the Light, a major survey show of indigenous art, both from remote areas and urban centres opened on May 18 at the Essl Collection in Vienna. It was curated by Michael Eather of Fire-Works Gallery in Brisbane and comprises some 80 works including 38 purchased in 2000 in Australia by Karlheinz Essl. The 300 page catalogue includes essays about each of the four regions represented in the Essl Collection: Arnhem Land, The Kimberley, Western and Central Desert and Urban Centres. There was a program of talks, performances and workshops to help educate audiences in the understanding of indigenous art.
" Sculptor James Darling has dispatched a container load of mallee roots to the Pori Museum in Finland where he will construct a very large version of his celebrated Mallee Fowl Nests prior to its showing at ARCO in Madrid in Feb 2001.
INSERT PICTURE HERE
" Lyndal Jones is representing Australia at the Venice Biennale this year with a video installation titled Deep Water/Aqua Profunda a collage of images, sounds and voices from Venice and Sydney which according to the artist creates the physical sensation of being in deep water.
" Sherman Galleries took Janet Laurence, Hilarie Mais, Mike Parr and Imants Tillers to the Art Chicago 2001 art fair in May.
" ARCO '02 Installation of a large screen in the courtyard of the Reina Sophia National Art Museum in Madrid to show contemporary moving image work from Australia is just part of the program being finalized for the Year of Australia at the ARCO art fair February 2001. Plans include an exhibition of indigenous art curated by Djon Mundine The Native Born which will be shown in the beautiful Palacio di Velazquez in the Parque del Retiro, and a show of indigenous photography in the Canal de Isabel II . In June Assistant Director of the Reina Sofia National Art Museum, Enrique Juncosa, is visiting Australia to look at contemporary Australian art and will travel to Arnhem Land with Djon Mundine.
" Earlier this year at ARCO '01 Artlink coordinated a stand representing five major Australian art magazines, and as in previous years they were all admired, pored over and bought, with expressions of amazement that Australia should have so many high quality magazines (the implication being that some are still unaware that there was actually a contemporary art scene in Australia to write about).
" Professor Terry Smith will take up a position as a Getty Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles later in 2001.
" Fotis Kapetopoulos is leaving Multicultural Arts Victoria and joining Co.As.It Italian Resource Centre as Manager of Policy and Research.
" New faces at the College of Fine Art in Sydney: Peter Hill, Anna Munster, Susan Best and Toni Ross to the Art History and Theory Dept, Michele Barker to Photomedia and John Colette to Digital Media.
" Judy Kean has left the Museum & Art Gallery of the NT and is the new Director of Museums Australia Queensland.
" Anthony 'Ace' Bourke of Hogarth Galleries is working for Phillips Auctioneers as their Aboriginal consultant.
"The Hottest Gallery in the World is the history of 10 years at 24HR Art, the Northern Territory Centre for Contemporary Art (1990 – 2000) the incubator where a succession of extraordinary directors helped spawn some remarkably forward looking projects. These have rivalled in significance the work of many more well-heeled (and much cooler) arts spaces around the nation. The book, written by Malcolm McKinnon, is available from 24HR Art, ph (08) 8981 5368, firstname.lastname@example.org
Visual Arts Net: new gateway website
NAVA's much anticipated Visual Arts Net is the new central access point to the whole of the Australian visual arts and craft sector. It boasts an easy guide to the sector, regularly updated visual arts news and information, and a comprehensive search directory for artists and organisations. There is also a wealth of professional practice advice, and users can participate in the online forum, place a classified advertisement, find out about NAVA, and much more. The development of the site has been assisted by the Australia Council and DCITA through the larger portal Australia's Cultural Network. http://www.visualarts.net.au
" Get your application in by 30 June to take part in The Floating Land project organized by Noosa Regional Gallery. See ad in Artlink March issue. Ph 07 5449 5297 for a form.
" Closing date for Asialink Arts Residencies 2002 is 7 September; updated information available from July ph (03) 9349 1899 or check the website www.asialink.unimelb.edu.au
" The Visual Arts/Craft Board is now seeking public nominations for the 2001 Emeritus Award and Emeritus Medal. These honours are intended to recognise and celebrate outstanding achievement and contribution to visual arts and crafts in Australia by eminent senior visual artists and craftspeople, as well as writers, curators, administrators and advocates. For further information please contact Ingrid Mills, on 02 9215 9162 or email@example.com
Woollahra Sculpture Prize is a new award for freestanding works smaller than 80cm, with a major acquisitive award of $10,000 and two non-acquisitive awards of $2,000 and $1,000. Judges: Deborah Edwards, Curator of Australian Art at AGNSW and Ben Genocchio, Art Critic for the Sydney Morning Herald. And the first round of entries by slide or proposal, closes 9July 2001. contact Michelle Bleicher (02) 9391 7011 firstname.lastname@example.org
Call for papers - cultural policy research
The 2nd International Conference on Cultural Policy Research to be held in Wellington, NZ from 23 - 26 January, 2002 is calling for papers. The Australian Key Centre for Cultural and Media Policy is putting together a panel session & series of papers on youth arts & cultural policy. Phone 07 3975 7772 if you're interested in this collaboration. http://www.iccpr.org or email@example.com
Quick plonk art rules
Artrave heard in April that well-known SA artist Hossein Valamanesh had withdrawn from a large and potentially rewarding sculpture commission for the Riverbank precinct of the new Adelaide Convention Centre near the Festival Centre. Reportedly the time allowed for completion and the general approach to the commissioning (by invitation) of three standalone sculptures at $100,000 each were simply not viable or acceptable to a professional artist with any shred of integrity. It was reportedly a hard decision for Valamanesh as commissions of this scale and in such a prominent location are few and far between. There are ongoing problems with the commissioning of public art in Adelaide; Arts SA's Art in Public Places division languishes under-resourced, last year's major Review into public art conducted by the University of SA appears to be not so much on the Minister's desk as on her shelf. As the rudderless ship washes around Gulf St Vincent with a lack of accountability and professionalism apparent left right and center, artists are getting more and more angry . Artrave received the following letter from sculptor/designer Frank Bauer, whose recent survey exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney received accolades from the critics.
AN OPEN LETTER FROM AN ARTIST
I am writing to outline the reasons for my withdrawal from the Holdfast Shores Glenelg project. There are several factors concerning this Wind/Air artwork commission which have influenced my decision.
Firstly, the very short timeframe [invitation March, completion August 2001, Ed] allocated to produce a work in a 'landmark location positioned to establish major reference points throughout the precinct' (Artist's Brief p2). Consultants, developers and councils etc, need to involve artists much earlier in the process so that artwork can become an integral part of the development.
The position allocated to me of 'the marina wave breaker that protects the boat mooring area ... raised from the water by approx. 3-4 metres and about 1 metre wide' (Artist's Brief p2) - it is actually 55cm wide. The technical parameters presented by this position cannot be over-stated. The wave breaker (and therefore my eventual artwork) is fully exposed to the elements, subject to corrosion, stress and sway of approx. 30cm or more in strong winds. The position, if not thoroughly engineered, presents serious public safety issues and severe technical complications.
The inadequate budget allocation of $20,000 to cover: materials and manufacture, technical advice (including all engineers), insurance and legal costs (including public liability), installation costs including crane and equipment hire, artist's fees
The wind sculptures I produce require precision engineering in their manufacture, they are finely tuned to react to the slightest breeze. My experience and approach to work is always to consider environmental conditions, the integrity of the artwork, the safety of moving parts, durability and quality of finish.
The marina wave breaker at Holdfast Shores imposes enormous financial restrictions on the manufacture of an artwork of sufficient scale and prominence. In the first instance, I would need to engage mechanical and corrosion engineers who can indemnify the safety and durability of the work. For the artwork's installation, I would most certainly require consultation with structural engineers, a boat crane and possibly other equipment hire. Considering these factors, I believe that I would incur serious out-of-pocket expenses if I were to proceed with the project.
It is naive and unrealistic of Brecknock Consulting to presume that a budget of $20,000 is sufficient to cover all the costs associated with this commission. Poorly funded budgets encourage mediocre artwork, and I believe that Adelaide has enough of that already. I also presumed that some research on the wave breaker would have occurred prior to my briefing, instead I had to initiate a meeting with the construction engineers.
I am a person who thrives on challenge, and I am more than keen to produce a wind sculpture in an appropriate place in this situation or any other, but I cannot work without adequate time and funds to cover all the essential costs. Unfortunately, it is my believe that this commission is totally under-funded for me to produce a quality artwork at this site.
17 April 2001
cc: Jennifer Layther, Kathie Massey, SA Department for the Arts; Rob Donaldson, Holdfast Shores Development, Holdfast Bay City Council; Doug Gardner, Jim Williams, Woodhead International Architects