What do we want? When do we want it?
For up to seven years there have been no increases in either absolute or real terms in ongoing funding for the visual arts for most of the contemporary art organisations around the country. Paradoxically a recent survey found that the activity of this sector overall has increased significantly.
As Sean Kelly, director of CAST in Hobart put it, "we have been forced to cut away anything that was not vital to life support - everything has been trimmed off that could go, to the extent that we have cut into the muscle and we are now down to the bone." This is the reality - artists and other workers are unprotected by minimum fee scales and expectations rising ever higher with nothing to support the load. The managers of visual arts interests summoned enough strength to stagger to Sydney in January to attend the historic first meeting of a new lobby group, to be known as the National Visual Arts and Crafts Network. Encouragingly, the airfares of interstate representatives were met by the Australia Council who are themselves under continual stress with funding static for years and inflation and rising costs creating a reduction in available resources.
The formation of the network (which henceforth will operate by email listserve) was initiated by the National Association of the Visual Arts with the stated aim of speaking with a united voice on a range of issues in an attempt to gain the attention of those who hold the purse strings. One of the first decisions made by the group, which represents every section of the visual arts from regional galleries to craft organisations, artists' associations, private galleries, as well as major art museums and art education, was to ask for research to be done into the needs of the sector, along the lines of the Nugent Report into the performing arts. Nugent resulted in a major new funding line to the larger performing arts companies in the wake of devastating cuts in prior years. Only when the visual arts sector is properly understood, both in its own terms and in terms of how it contributes to the economy, including employment, will it be clear to government just how neglected this sector is.
The recent spate of capital works being done around art museums both metropolitan and regional in several states, with extensions, new buildings and upgrades to facilities hides the fact that those institutions are expected to run bigger and better programs in their grander-looking edifices without the program funds to do so. The charred results of the traditional Aussie recipe for Stress and Burn-out can be smelled all over the country.
Morality is now Legal
There was rejoicing in the land on 7 December last year when after years of campaigning moral rights legislation was finally passed in the Senate. What we got, and we have to thank NAVA, ArtsLaw, Viscopy, and several other bodies for intensive and determined lobbying to get the best possible deal amongst a morass of compromises that were threatened, are unequivocal support for the right of integrity and the right of attribution. Under those two banners the works of artists are now legally protected from a raft of abuse by those who might be tempted to do unpleasant things to them. Not only are fine artists protected, but so are 'commercial visual authors' like photographers, graphic designers, cartoonists, illustrators and many others. However, like the law of Copyright which we have been protected by for decades, Moral Rights law still has to be enforced.
Setting an example
At their recent AGM, members of the Indigenous Art Traders Association have taken a moral stand for the payment of resale royalties (droit de suite). Each sale made by a dealer of the Association is to be accompanied by a 'moral contract' - a request that if the artwork is resold the seller will pay 1% of the profit back to the artist via a copyright collecting society. A small start in reform, but a significant attempt to broach the fortress that is the secondary market. In the meantime there is growing support and exposure of this issue in the media - an article in The Age, and interviews on radio and TV. Paul Greenaway the private Adelaide art dealer who has made a public stand in support of resale royalties, was interviewed on the ABC's Late Line in February in which the representatives of the auction houses looked not only mean-spirited but plain silly.
Ever wondered where you stand when the copyright of the work you have entered for a competition suddenly becomes the property of the organising body even if they have not bought your work? ever had to negotiate a fair rate of commission with a dealer, ever entered into an agreement on a public art commission for which the brief suddenly changes? You will be relieved to know that the NAVA Code of Practice for the Visual Arts and Crafts is now in its final draft form. Focus groups have been held over the past few months in most states thrashing out the detail of the Code which to date covers the following areas: Buying, Selling and Exhibiting Art (artists, galleries and agents) Public Art Commissioning, Residencies and Workshops, Competitions, Prizes, Awards and Fundraising Exhibitions. Check it out and download it: www.culture.com.au/nava
Desert dreamings came an abrupt end for the Adelaide-based art dealer John O'Loughlin who has the dubious distinction of being the first person in Australia to be sentenced for art fraud. In a case in Sydney during early February he pleaded guilty to painting parts of paintings purported to be by Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri and selling them. Now if he had read the Code of Practice......
GST update on trading
Art dealers are reporting that the GST has put prices up considerably in the galleries and there has been a backlash by Australian buyers with sales falling off. Overseas sales however remain good being GST free, though the low Australian dollar is a more likely cause. At present, artists and galleries are absorbing much of the GST impact at their own expense.
" The National Museum of Australia, our first social history museum, finally opens its doors on 11 March. It will be a high-tech museum using devices like a 3-D interactive map of Australia using digital animation and visible from three floors. . Designed by Ashton Raggatt McDougall, the Museum covers an area of 13,770 square metres and is spread around and across the Acton Peninsula, asymmetrical, rambling, with gardens in the middle. Strong links are created with the water via a promenade around the lake's edge. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies has been incorporated into the complex, with a significant library. Coming hot on the heels of the controversial Melbourne Museum, which also has a strong social history component, comparisons are inevitable. All we can say at this point is try and get to see both and tell us what you think! Amongst many exhibitions the First Australians Gallery is the largest and claims to represent an unusually consultative approach to presenting Indigenous history and culture.
" Melbourne Museum has Australia's first Interactive Cinema Experience (ICE) one of only three in the world. The opening film in this novelty, where everyone has their own touch screen video console and can participate, play and compete during the show, is Vital Space . Designed as an educational game which takes you through the human body at micro level you use nano-robots to diagnose illness and find a cure.
" Queensland is following the example of Victoria under the Kennett government and injecting a large dose of cash into its regional galleries for capital improvements. Galleries in line for a $15 million funding for upgrades, extensions, climate control etc are in the communities of Warwick, Gympie, Townsville, Gladstone, Murilla and Mourilyan. $2.7 of this goes to develop a new contemporary arts centre in Cairns which will include exhibition and administrative space for Kick Arts Inc. The rationale for this spending is to attract more people, including children, to art museums, in line with recommendations in the Australia Council's report Australians and the Arts to get visitors involved in hands-on activities to introduce them to the arts. (Curators of old fashioned painting etc are treating this last directive with caution.)
" The new QUT Cultural Precinct is well and truly up and running. In the heart of Brisbane between the Botanic Gardens and the River it includes a theatre, a contemporary art museum and the existing Gardens Point Campus of the Queensland University of Technology. Director is Sue-Anne Wallace, previously of the MCA in Sydney. You can get there by ferry, amongst other more mundane means, and by mid-year you will be able to cross the river from the South Bank and its cultural precinct on a new footbridge.
" More upgrades, this time unusually to a contemporary art space. The Australian Centre for Contemporary Arts will move in late 2001 from its quaint parklands location in South Yarra to purpose-built premises alongside the Malthouse Theatre, Southbank. Total space will be 1400 m2 half of which is exhibiting space, and the rest offices, sales, loading and storage areas.
" The National Gallery of Victoria's major rebuilding program is behind schedule and the gallery may not be open to the public for a couple of years yet.
" The Queensland Art Gallery has announced that the Fourth Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT4) will be the inaugural exhibition of the new Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, expected to open in 2005. As the last Triennial was in 1999 this is an unusual kind of triennium. To satisfy the public's appetite for Asian contemporary art in the interim, the QAG is planning a show for 2002 of about 20 artists which will explore their practice in detail, using the works from its now large Asian collection, acquired partly through the $2 million gift which is part of the Sidney Myer Centenary Celebration.
" Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery has a new purpose built gallery designed by Cox Richardson complementing the spectacular 5 hectare lakefront grounds and highlighting historic Awaba House, The collection has a 'Still Waters- Clear Visions' theme and includes a number of sculptural pieces in the Park to delight family picnickers. Some of the artists represented in the collection are Ken Unsworth, Marion Borgelt, Richard Tipping, Janet Laurence and John Morris.
" Money for water
The Myer Foundation has opened a new funding category for Water and Environment projects. Details on their web site http://werple.net.au/~smf/
or email email@example.com tel 03 9207 3040
" A new contemporary art fair titled Asean Art Expo will show about 80 artists from ASEAN countries. In the run-up to this, national exhibitions will be held in Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Singapore culminating in the regional exhibition, AseanART2001, in Kuala Lumpur 15 September - 31 October 2001 at the National Art Gallery Malaysia. Details Asean Art Associates Info@aseanartexpo.com
" Art Port: artist-run initiatives week was designed to raise awareness of artist-run galleries and studios and to focus on the role they play in supporting young and emerging artists. It included the launch of a guide to ARIs in inner Sydney, a web listing of artist-run galleries and studios and a week of events 12-18 March 2001. Details contact Mirah Lambert, Program Manager, Museums and Galleries Foundation of NSW
Tel: (02) 9358 1760 firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Gray replaces John McDonald as Head of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia. She was until recently Director or the Lawrence Wilson Gallery at the University of WA
Richard Grayson is the Director of the next Sydney Biennale. He is an artist and writer who after a 7 years as Director of the EAF in Adelaide has been a global art nomad, exhibiting, curating and writing. Invention and Imagination will be his central themes under the sub-title (The World May Be) Fantastic, reflecting Grayson's interest in ideas of the fake and the imaginary. Acts of fantasy and fiction acquire a greater significance in an economic rationalist culture.
Janice Lally replaces Margot Osborne as Curator at the JamFactory Gallery who has left to go independent.
Noel Sheridan, Head of the National College of Art in Ireland, is having a retrospective in Dublin, and a book of essays is being published about his life and work. In two instalments Noel Sheridan had about 20 years in Australia, first in Sydney and Adelaide and then in Perth; during the first block of time he always wore green, which was not connected with being Irish as everyone always assumed, but to do with painting. A recent email to Donald Brook who has contributed an essay about Sheridan's times in Australia reveals: "Although my wearing green was a way to remove aesthetic choice in deciding what to wear, it was also a last salute to Greenberg's terminal painting problem 'how to float colour' by choosing one colour and floating it in life on my person." Sheridan was the first director of the Experimental Art Foundation, and later took on the same role at PICA in Perth .
" Commissioner Michael Snelling Eugene Carchesio as the sole representative of Australia at the 10th Triennale India currently running in New Delhi. Carchesio is showing a floor installation of tiny matchbox and paper constructions.
" It's definite: the 2002 Adelaide Festival will not be hosting Artists' Week. The field is open for artists to reclaim the event but must decide how to make it happen. The SA School of Art has expressed an interest in getting involved, and meetings are being held around town.
" The Adelaide Festival is part of a national public forum Cities as stages for investigating the role of cities as 'stages' for economic, ecological, social, creative and cultural development. One of the eminent speakers Professor Jan Gehl from Copenhagen is a crusader for giving cities back to pedestrians. Peter Sellars, Festival Director will be there helping to up the ante for Adelaide's planners and decision makers. Elder Hall 2 and 3 March. Details: www.planning.sa.gov.au/citystage
AWARDS & WINNERS
" The Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award is a new annual art scholarship worth $80,000 to the winner plus subsidiary awards. It is developed from a bequest by the late Helen Lempriere, a painter, managed by Perpetual Trustees. The shortlisted 22 sculptors include Bronwyn Oliver, Kristan Burford, Richard Goodwin, Simeon Nelson, Robert Owen and Karen Ward, most of whom are well established professionals - an advantage when the reality is that they must have an existing large scale non site-specific work suitable for outdoor showing in the sweeping vistas of Werribee Park in Victoria. The winning work becomes the property of the Lempriere Collection and is permanently sited at Werribee Park. Entry to the outdoor exhibition 21 March - 30 April is $11.
" If you make small objects suitable for gifts for the corporate and tourism sector that interpret the character and spirit of Queensland this enterprise could be for you. Memento is a Queensland government and tourism initiative which promises sales promotion and prizes to suitable producers. For entry form email@example.com or www.arts.qld.gov.au Entries close 20 April 2001.
" The business of content provision (or teaching) used to be mostly conducted by universities and schools. Now state art galleries are getting in on the act, offering diplomas and certificates. Last year the AGSA was advertising a course in Art History using curators as teachers and their collection as the core content. This year the AGNSW is offering a weekly lecture series called 'Contemporary Art Course 2001' Making Connections: Contemporary Art + Everything Else. The program has the inimitable stamp of its co-ordinator George Alexander, the James Joyce of art theory and miraculously the gallery's Senior Education Officer. On a weekly basis the unconnected (layperson or specialist) can learn how things interrelate - a Quantum Theory approach to art in your lunch hour! Lecturers are drawn from all branches of culture, visual or otherwise; launched in February and runs until mid-November. www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au
" The Cultural Heritage and Museum Studies courses at Deakin University's Burwood campus has undergone some changes including a new distance education option. Details from Marion Hansen (03) 5227 1328 firstname.lastname@example.org
" The Australian Print Workshop in Melbourne is offering classes in a range of printmaking techniques from March to June. Details phone (03) 9419 5466
" Seven emerging artists will set off in search of enlightenment in their chosen art niche courtesy of the inaugural round of the Freedman Foundation Travelling Scholarship. for Emerging Artists. They are heading to Weimar, New York, Spain, Paris, and other points on the map to look at all manner of phenomena from the Indian diaspora in the UK to polychrome sculpture in Spain. The Scholarship has been endowed by philanthropists Kathy and Laurence Freedman and is administered by NAVA. www.culture.com.au/nava
" Roy Dalgarno died on 1 February in Auckland at the age of ninety. He had lived overseas for much of his life and moved to New Zealand in the seventies. Dalgarno was best known for his compassionate paintings and drawings of steelworkers, miners and the waterfront, and of daily life for workers and their families. The Wollongong City Gallery hosted an exhibition of his prints and drawings entitled Roy Dalgarno - Working Life from November 2000 through January 2001 including, appropriately, several of his images of steelworkers at the Port Kembla works. Curator Anna Griffiths comments: "Dalgarno captured the heat and grime of the workers' tasks, the easy shifts of posture which come from their repetitive actions. It is a fast fading world but kept ever alive by the quick hand and incisive eye of the artist."