As we go to press a long running saga which may involve the permanent dissolution of the board of the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the transfer of its collections and funding to the direct control of long serving liberal arts minister and attorney general Peter Foss is about to come to a head. David Bromfield reports:
Back to the Thirties?
The Culture, Libraries and the Arts Bill, 1998 currently before the WA parliament creates the Minister for the Arts as a Corporate Sole in which all the properties of these institutions will be vested. The legislation will create a cultural supremo to administer the state library, art gallery, museum and department for the arts. Ricky Burges, former director of Perth Zoo has been nominated for this role.
Although new advisory boards will be established the Minister is not bound to accept their advice. He will have absolute control over the day-to-day running of the Art Gallery. He may choose to delegate this to Ricky Burges as the new CEO of the newly created Ministry of Culture and the Arts but in either event the Gallery will lose all freedom from immediate political pressures and be directly subject to the arbitrary whims, tastes and anxieties of the Minister and his party. Any contentious purchase or exhibition will immediately become the subject of intense lobbying and debate in parliament. The Minister however is only required to inform parliament of his actions after the event. The few in Perth with long memories recall that a similar situation pertained in Perth between the wars when the chief librarian J. S. Battye ran all cultural services and as a consequence the gallery received virtually no funding.
The current Minister's track record in these matters is not good. He failed, for instance, to support the Mapplethorpe exhibition when it was shown here. He has also proved to be an enthusiastic, if ill-informed, interventionist in favour of populist art programming and socially influential groups within the art world.
The proposed legislation theatens politicisation of all the activities of the Gallery. The entrepreneurial expertise of the present board will be replaced by bureaucratic oversight from ministry officials. The Gallery will disappear as the recognisable flagship of the visual arts in WA. It will find it difficult to attract donations and sponsorship. It will lose control of its collections and its budget. It may also be subject to direct political censorship.
It is believed that Mr Foss omitted to inform Alan Dodge, Director of the AGWA of the proposed legislation at the time of his appointment. Since then Dodge has made remarkable progress in freeing up the gallery to become an innovative, open institution with a strong independent vision. It is widely speculated that should the legislation be passed Dodge and some of his senior staff may leave. Certainly no first class director would be attracted to a gallery controlled by play it safe bureaucrats.
The Labor opposition and the independents who control the balance of power in the upper house are against the legislation. The
Association of WA Art Galleries has formed a committee chaired by David Forrest of Gallery East to lobby against it. They identify its chief dangers as:
"Loss of clear accounting "The withdrawal of the gallery from leadership in the visual arts "An unadventurous, meretricious and unchallenging exhibitions programme. "Political interference at the behest of factional groups "An adverse effect on art practice in WA "Boring Art
Should it be implemented the legislation may well presage the spread of mindless managerial and corporate attitudes to cultural institutions throughout Australia.
MCA in danger
Things are not getting any better at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art. Since the management-financial crisis hit last year emergency measures have been taken with 20% of the staff sacked and the Museum to close one day per week, but still there is no rescue package forthcoming from state or federal government or the private sector. Staff have been taking industrial action, picketing the Museum; NAVA has advised the federal Minister Peter McGauran that support should be provided for the institution provisional upon better management structures being put in place, including proper staff conditions, and that it is unfair to expect the Museum to survive on the contributions of the private sector. The feeling around town is that there will be a band-aid solution in order to keep it alive for the Olympics and then it will be allowed to fall in a heap again. Sydney and Australia will have lost an asset which will leave a gaping hole in the cultural fabric and will be very hard to replace.
Places to be
" Bundanon, the NSW south coast property where Arthur Boyd used to live and work was bequeathed by Boyd to the nation in March 1993 as a place for other artists to live and work. A new residency program has come on stream this year, whereby in addition to the regular program of Australian artists, a number of high-profile international artists are invited with the expectation that they will interact with the Australians and engage in other ways with the arts community.
Spearheading this enterprise is Gene Sherman, Director of Sherman Galleries and Chair of the artist-in-residency sub-committee which comprises Tony Bond, Rodney Hall AM, Prof Andrea Hull and David Chalker, General Manager of the Bundanon Trust; they look after the program and issue invitations to overseas visitors.
On schedule to arrive in 1999 is Anzai, an prominent artist/photographer from Japan. A major survey of his work is being planned by the Osaka Museum for 2000. A second resident artist will be selected and sponsored, in consultation with the Bundanon Trust, by the Hong Kong Arts Council.
The program is funded by the Bundanon Trust under the direction of a Federal Government appointed board. Trustees include Chair David Gonski, Gene Sherman, Polly Boyd, Fred Street and Alice Spigelman.
Australian artists who wish to be considered for a residency at Bundanon should direct enquiries to David Chalker. 60% of the artists are selected (watch for ads in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian) and 40% are by invitation.
" Queensland Opening on May 1 in Ipswich just out of Brisbane, is Global Arts Link, a new cultural centre which combines the role of an art gallery with social history and popular culture through the use of interactive technologies. Queensland's oldest town hall was restored and extended at a cost of $6.5m after consultation with local people. A forecourt with pool and shade canopy connects to the glassed entry foyer with a public sculpture by Rodney Spooner paying homage to three of Ipswich's lost heritage buildings. The permanent exhibit on the ground floor using new technologies houses the First Australian Hall of Time, exploring the idea of Ipswich; there are art works by Queensland indigenous artist Ron Hurley and Michael and Ludmilla Doneman and displays tell stories of Ipswich's indigenous communities in various media. Facilities include a major triple A rated gallery (international museum standard), a dedicated children's visual arts learning environment, a gallery for the permanent collection, and a public lounge for meeting or web surfing. The opening exhibition and publication - People, Places, Pastimes: challenging perspectives of Ipswich, curated by Rodney James has 150 art works from well known local, national and international artists exploring the nature and make-up of regional Australian communities. More info from Julie Carter 07 3810 6677 or http://www.gal.org.au
" QDOS Art Gallery is a new facility in the Victorian seaside town of Lorne. Graeme Wilkie commissioned architect Peter Brook (Peddle Thorpe) to build him a gallery to complement the sculpture park he had started, blending in with the bush, with up-tilted roofs to catch the natural light evoking the origami which is one of Wilkie's favourite forms. Ceramic and sculpture workshops and children's art classes take place there as well as a series of visits by Japanese craftspeople showing their work. Master calligrapher Shotei Ibata will demonstrate his art with a 2m brush from 27 March - 10 April.
The Big Pond
" Australian art is being seen in various countries this year in the lead-up to the Olympics. Artistic Director of Reaching the World the official SOCOG contribution to culture, is Andrea Stretton whose task was to take maximum advantage of the unprecedented attention we could get from the rest of the world. In terms of visual arts there is a very eclectic group of offerings, a result of the very small budget Stretton has had to work with - rumour has it that the lion's share went to Leo (Schofield, for his 2000 arts festival during the Olympics themselves).
" Howard Arkley Melbourne painter of suburbia (perhaps the true Australian landscape) has been chosen as the official artist to represent Australia at the 48th Venice Biennale which opens in June 1999. The exhibition is being curated by Tim Morrell, Curator of Contemporary Australian Art at the Queensland Art Gallery.
" Volume & Form is a large international sculpture event in Singapore opening in early May. Seventeen Australian sculptors have been invited to participate and their works will be placed around the city in public spaces and buildings as well as museums, galleries and hotels. Auspiced by the Singapore private gallery Andres Contemporary Art, it is a many-layered, staged event with various public education elements. Ken Scarlett (Vic) is one of several international sculpture specialists scheduled to give lectures on the art of their particular region.
" Asialink has been braving the political storms in Malaysia and pursuing a range of projects there lately. It has invited all the previous Asialink artists-in-residence in Malaysia over the past few years to return to Malaysia for a month this year to renew contact with colleagues there and build on previous ideas. The results will be seen in a workshop/informal exhibition in Kuala-Lumpur.
In another project two curators, Wayne Tunnicliffe from Sydney and Zanita Anawar from Kuala-Lumpur are bringing together artists who work in new technology for a joint Australian/Malaysian exhibition to be shown at the National Art Gallery in K-L and at the Art Gallery of NSW later in 1999.
Exhibitions to watch
Moét & Chandon Touring Exhibition comprising the work of 21 national finalists under the age of 35 opens at the Art Gallery of South Australia on 9 March where the winner of the $50,000 prize and a year's stay at Epernay in France will be announced. Touring to other capitals between April and September.
The structuring of the Melbourne International Biennial Signs of Life, is certainly furthering the ambition of Melbourne to be known as "the City for the Arts". An initiative of the City of Melbourne, it has many strands but consists of two main aspects : a large exhibition of the work of around 50 - 60 artists from around the world, opening on 14 May at "a building in the centre of the CBD" as well as various other venues around town, both interior and exterior spaces. Extending out from this will be ephemeral and/or performance-based works in city spaces. The other arm of the MIB, opening on 11 May, is a series of curated shows from various countries hosted within public and private galleries in the city. These have been put together collaboratively by representatives of the private or diplomatic investors who are promoting the work of their country and the host bodies. The MIB hopes that in this way "to propose new models of national representation".
There will be programs of discussions and lectures in the first week. In addition a weekend of talks will be held on the public holiday weekend 11-13 June. In order to maximise the benefit of a concentration of artists and curators during the MIB artistic director Juliana Engberg has created the Open Studio Program; ten international curators have been invited to attend, participate in the talk programs and also visit a series of selected artists' studios in the City for the Arts in order to provide feedback and also to gain exposure for these artists to international curatorial networks. Yet another strand features the work of emerging Melbourne architects with an exhibition and a weekend of talks. For a full program ph (03) 9344 0110, fax (03) 9344 0161, email: firstname.lastname@example.org 11 May - 27 June.
The Clemenger Contemporary Art Award has been held every three years since 1993. This year sees curators Max Delaney (Heide) and Jason Smith (NGV) inviting 10 artists to show work made specially for the $30,000 award. Judges are Leon Paroissien, Mike Parr and Joan Clemenger and invitees are Howard Arkley, Peter Cripps, Sue Ford, Rosalie Gascoigne, Elizabeth Gower, Fiona Hall, Robert Hunter, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Geoff Lowe and John Nixon. Non prize-winners will receive a grant of $2000 each. Museum of Modern Art at Heide 3 April - 9 May.
Contempora5 1999 Jeff Kennett's $100,000 art award is the other big money event this year in the City for the Arts and the winner will be announced in August. The finalists comprising Louise Weaver, Louise Herman, Rosemary Laing, Mikala Dwyer, and Ricky Swallow have been selected by judges Zara Stanhope, Naomi Cass, Ted Colless, John McDonald, and Jason Smith. The award is made on the strength of an exhibition mounted by each selected artist at the Ian Potter Museum of Art (as the National Gallery of Victoria is to be closed for renovations). The prize money is received in instalments over two years.
The Third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art is shaping up to be another must-see. Four region-based curatorial teams representing East Asia, South East Asia, South Asia and the Pacific, have been working for almost two years selecting around 75 artists, whose names will be known in April. A fifth group of international curators are the Crossing Borders team who represent the new breed of globally mobile artists. The now legendary conference that complements the exhibition will be held from 10-12 September at the Brisbane Convention Centre. More information in our June issue but plan to take your September holidays in Brisbane this year. Queensland Art Gallery 9 Sept - 26 January.
Treasures of Asian Art is a selection of the Mr & Mrs John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection which they gave to the Asia Society, New York. There are works from the classic periods of South India, Cambodia, China, Japan with a focus on Buddhist sculpture for which John Rockefeller had a particular penchant. The tour is sponsored by Mobil. It is showing at the NGV 12 March - 10 May and Art Gallery of NSW 28 May - 15 August
Art Gallery of NSW highlights:
" The Slowness of Speed is the first major curated show of art from Korea to be seen in Australia May 15 - 22 June
" Australian Perspecta 1999 will be, in response to "the urgent reassessments of national life... as we approach the millennium", on the theme of political agency and governance in daily life. Overall co-ordination of project is by Wayne Tunnicliffe, Curator, International Art Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales. AGNSW and 9 other public art spaces in Sydney 24 September - 14 November
" Jeffrey Smart a major retrospective of his work curated by Edmund Capon 27 August - 31 October
Jenny Bott is the new General Manager of the Australia Council replacing Michael Lynch. She took up the appointment in early February. Bott was previously EO of Musica Viva where her marketing skills were used to much advantage.
Tony Bond, Chief Curator at the Art Gallery of NSW is taking leave of absence to take up the position of Artistic Director of the inaugural Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art which is the first international contemporary art biennial ever to be staged in the United Kingdom. The Liverpool Biennial will be shown in at least 8 venues around the city, including the Tate Gallery Liverpool, opening mid September 1999.
Jane Scott has left the Access Gallery at the NGV and become the Director of the Waverley City Gallery.
Francesco Fisher is the new program manager at the Australian Centre for Photography replacing Blair French and Joanne Saad is the new education manager.
Peter Atkins (painting) and Deborah Paauwe (photography) were shown by Greenaway Art Gallery in February at the international art fair ARCO99 in Madrid. Tony Bond will give a lecture at ARCO in the lead up to ARCO 2002 when Australia will be the featured country.
Therese Kenyon is now the Director of the Manly Art Gallery after many years as Director of the Tin Sheds Gallery at Sydney University.
" Australia Council overseas studio residencies have been awarded to the following artists for 1999-2000
Rome: Tom Arthur, Alex Gawronski, Euan Heng, Geoff Weary, Andrew Wright-Smith; Barcelona: Adele Arkell, Adrian Jones, Rosemary Lakerink, Raquel Ormella; Milan: Damiano Bertolo, Maria Ionico, Jan Murray; London: Vivienne Binns, Lyndall Phelps, Sally Smart; Tokyo: Eugene Carchesio, Ian Haig, Larissa Hjorth, Jacinta Schreuder, Paula Wong; Los Angeles: Sione Francis, Jane Trengove; New York Greene St: Greg Healey, Yvette Linton-Smith, Michael Stevenson, Judy Watson; Taiwan: Rod McLeish; Paris: Jill Orr, Louiseann Zahra. In addition eight artists have been funded for self-organised overseas sojourns in Europe and the USA and one to Ghana.
" The Gordon Darling Foundation awarded 22 grants to visual arts organisations in 1998 totalling over $250,000. There was an increase in grants to university galleries over regional galleries, and two publications were assisted. The Foundation becomes increasingly a precious resource as funds from other private (and public) sources become harder to attract.
Projects - home and away
" Public art commissions in Brisbane have taken a leap forward with the dedication of a new office block the Neville Bonner Building at 75 William St which includes major 3-dimensional works by four Queensland artists: Yenda Carson, Ron Hurley, Gwyn Hansen-Piggott, and Barbara Heath. The projects have been project-managed by the Queensland Artworkers Alliance.
" An innovative regional arts project marrying art, science and industry is under way in Mildura. Sunrise 21 - Artists in Industry teams up five artists in residence with five local research and management organisations focusing on agriculture, irrigation and water quality. The host organisations can see potential benefits from creative exploration of the theme of sustainability. Brainchild of Director of the Mildura Arts Centre Ian Hamilton, the project has brought to the oasis city artists Chris Booth (NZ, sculpture) Michael Doneman and Motoyuki Niwa (Qld, multimedia), Rodney Spooner (NSW/Qld, sculpture) Megan Jones (ACT multimedia/ VR) Craig Christie (Vic, musical theatre) all of whom have worked before with themes of land and water and environmental concepts. It is hoped that the special research into sustainable development going on in Mildura will become better known in the rest of Australia as a result of the work of the artists. For details contact Ian Hamilton (03) 5023 3733
" Lead is not an obvious material for artists but it has a certain relevance for audiences in places like Port Pirie, Whyalla in SA and Morwell in Victoria. Artist-curator Dianne Longley invited 17 other artists, some city and some country-based, to make a work using lead and Heavy Metal, the resulting exhibition, is touring to regional centres throughout Australia, starting at the New Land Gallery in Port Adelaide.
" SALA Week (South Australian Living Artists Week) is scheduled for 1-8 August this year, following the substantial success of the inaugural 1998 event. Stephanie Evans, Coordinator, can be contacted through Greenaway Art Gallery email@example.com
" Residencies: Artists within the first five years of their practice are invited to apply for a six or 12-month studio residency and/or a subsidised exhibition at SEAS in Adelaide. The Australia Council is funding this under its Artist Run Initiatives program. Apply by early March. Ph/fax (08) 8410 4202, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebrities for hire
The Asia Pacific Triennial (see above) is bringing a very large number of international artists to Australia in September. If your university or art school is interested in having one or more of these artists visit your school as a resident after the opening in Brisbane, you should start making enquiries about availability as soon as possible. Many of the artists are available to tour and the QAG is interested in hearing from potential hosts.
" Museums Australia's national conference Fringe Benefits: Community, Culture and Communication is on at the Albury Convention Centre 5 - 9 May. The sector within MA which represents art museums, the Visual Arts and Crafts Special Interest Group has recently reinvigorated itself, and is hosting a full day of the conference - Thursday 7 May. It starts with a breakfast lecture by Brian Kennedy, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, and has workshops and talks on collections management, as well as addressing exhibition design and touring. Details from Chair Jane Scott (03) 9562 1569
" Edge is the 9th National Ceramics Conference to be held in Perth 5 - 8 July 1999 at the University of Western Australia. Keynote speakers are Janet Mansfield, Edmund de Waal, Steven Goldate and Paul Mathieu. Workshops will be conducted by ceramicists from Norway, Italy, Germany, USA New Zealand and Australia. There are dozens of exhibitions of ceramics scheduled in Perth for this time. Details from coordinator fax (08) 9298 9752 email@example.com