MCA sinking fast
The resignation of Bernice Murphy, the Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in early November could signal the end of the road for the Museum which has been on very shaky ground for some time. Her partner and colleague Leon Paroissien with whom she had shared the engine room of the MCA since it was established in 1991 resigned last year to run a new magazine Visual Arts and Culture though it was generally felt that the move was at least partly a response to the chronic state of financial crisis in which the museum had been operating for several years and which had created a level of stress on the staff that was simply too much to deal with. The MCA has never been properly resourced; as the prophetic article by Joanna Mendelssohn in Art Monthly (July 1998) explains, unlike the AGNSW and the Powerhouse Museum which receive a large portion of their funds from the NSW governenment, it receives almost no government money. The Power Bequest, upon which the Museum was founded, only provides 6% of the annual turnover of around $7.5m. This turnover is itself nowhere near enough to finance the kind of program and style which the MCA has set for itself. The private patronage on which the Museum has always depended so heavily has been shrinking and the pressure on curatorial and other staff to perform beyond even unreasonable limits has created huge stresses. Artworld heavy John Kaldor has been brought in in an executive chair position to try to manage the current crisis but it is felt that unless the NSW government offers a rescue package with some ongoing commitment to real funding the museum cannot survive. The tragedy is that the vision was right, as were many of the policies and strategies orginally set in place, but clumsy management has created cracks in the hull through which some of the MCA's best chances of survival have leaked away.
Nola Farman has designed an 8m high sculpture for Adelaide (possibly for the front of the SA Museum) to honour earth scientist Sir Douglas Mawson. It is a kinetic water sculpture linked to the real tidal ebb and flow of sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island and is topped with an ice cap which will change in size according to the heat of the day. Dr John Bye, an oceanographer at the school of earth sciences at Flinders University, has collaborated with Farman on the engineering of this work. The tidal changes are relayed to the sculpture by satellite and the water rises and falls in a clear column.
Reasons to be cheerful
On 16 November Vi$copy celebrated the recent wins of visual artists in the copyright arena at a party sponsored by Gray and Perkins, the Sydney legal firm which successfully represented photographer Grant Matthews in his win against Australian Consolidated Press for on-selling his work without consent.
Mandy Martin introduced Colin Golvan, Chair of Vi$copy and Melbourne barrister, who recently won another landmark case for Aboriginal artists when Justice John von Doussa found the Galanbingu people in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory could take legal action for copyright breaches to protect Aboriginal law and customs.
Colin Golvan spoke about the changed situation for visual artists in the copyright arena. Throughout all the activity of the 80s-90s artists' rights were at best overlooked or ignored. Instead of a situation of individual isolated artists struggling to assert their copyright, he said that we now have a gathering of the visual arts copyright industry in Australia.
Just appeared on Phillips St in Sydney at the rear of a building site are two gigantic reproductions on PVC of paintings by John Coburn, Rainforest from 1968 and Field from 1998 totalling 1600 sqm for a significant sum. Lend Lease has negotiated a licence through Vi$copy to reproduce these for around 18 months or the time it will take to finish their new building on the site.
SA artist photographers Gavin Blake and Fiona Hall are amongst the first beneficiaries of Vi$copy's recent negotiations with Screenrights for the secondary rights area. Director Anna Ward said "We're positioning our artists in terms of protection of copyright and digital services so that their rights are protected; and they also earn income from digital use. If you're not a member, join." Phone: 61-2-9331 7044 Fax: 61-2-9331 7241 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
" Another Powerhouse - a new arts centre will open its doors in early 2000 as the focal point of a new cultural precinct for Brisbane. The redevelopment of the old New Farm Powerhouse on the banks of the Brisbane River into a medium-sized performing arts centre is being funded and managed by the Brisbane City Council and designed by a Council team assisted by Cox Rayner Architects. It includes a new 400-seat theatre and a 200-seat auditorium built within the shell of the main Powerhouse building. Two Queensland artists Ann-Maree Reaney and Jay Younger have been taken on to come up with ideas for public artworks while Queensland Artworkers Alliance will manage the commissionings. Artrave hopes that the Council will try and think of an original name for this centre as there are already two well-known arts facilities called the Powerhouse in Australia. Any suggestions?
" Renewal in Melbourne: over the next four years Melbourne is investing $700m in new cultural infrastructure with no less than eight new projects in train including the brand new Melbourne Museum, the radically reshaped Malthouse Plaza which will house the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the new Museum of Australian Art at Federation Square, and the gutting and refurbishing of the National Gallery of Victoria. No shortage of work for local architects for a while.
" Utopia is there: the Riddoch Art Gallery in Mount Gambier, SA has accepted as a gift from the collector Rodney Gooch a very large and significant collection of Aboriginal art from Utopia.
" IMAGO - call for entries: Anemone is a proposed screening program of the best twelve short (up to 10 mins) contemporary digital animation and digital video art works produced during the last 18 months by Australian artists.
There will be two public screenings in Perth in February 1999, with skills development workshops and artists talks/panels. Screening fees of $250 will be paid to artists for the initial screenings in Perth. Send preview tapes to: Anemone Project, IMAGO Arts Program, IMAGO Multimedia Centre, 140 Royal Street, East Perth WA 6004 by 31 December 1998. For info: Rick Mason or Cam Merton ph 08 9235 6535 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or www.imago.com.au/anemone
" CCP/Leica Documentary Photography Exhibition and Award is offering $13,000 worth of Leica equipment and the chance to be one of 15 selected for a touring exhibition from July 1999 - 2000. Contact ph (03) 9417 1549, fax (03) 9417 1605 email email@example.com for an application form. Deadline for entries 1 April 1999.
Exhibitions to watch
" Art Gallery of NSW: Modern Lovers is 60 black and white photographs by French photographer Bettina Rheims taken in 1989 and 1990 in London and Paris of young people who are ambiguous and androgynous - till 21 Feb.
" National Portrait Gallery Canberra: Karsh: faces of the twentieth century is an exhibition of portraits by one of the world's most famous photographers Yousuf Karsh - till 7 Feb.
" Museum of Sydney: Flesh+Blood: A Sydney Story 1788-1998 an exhibition put together by Ace Bourke from his family's heirlooms, memorabilia and anecdotes and the collections of other founding families of Syndey as well as contemporary art - till 14 Feb.
" Cairns Regional Gallery: Ilan Pasin: Torres Strait Art is the first major exhibition of Torres Strait Islander art and is the result of two years work by Cairns Regional Gallery, with curators Tom Mosby and Brian Robinson negotiating loans of artworks from Australian and overseas museums and galleries. Works range from rare turtleshell masks and feather headdresses from the 19th century to avant garde conceptual art by urban based contemporary artists in the 1990s. Runs through summer. The exhibition will tour to seven other venues nationally.
" The third SITE, Santa Fe Biennial (New Mexico USA) will be held in July - October 1999 and is titled Looking for a Place. It will be directed by Spanish curator Rosa Martínez with about 20 artists. Santa Fe is a small romantic city with a large population of artists and is near the famous Walter de Maria lightning fields. Fax 1 87501 989 1188 for details.
" ARCO'99 takes place in Madrid 11 - 16 Feb and will attract a big group of curators and critics to take part in 19 debates on topics such as "Alternative Museums", "Independent Curators", "Latin American Art in the US" etc and "Art in South Africa".
" Toi Toi Toi: Art from New Zealand: an exhibition documenting the development of New Zealand art of the last 30 years will be seen at the Museum Fridericianum in Kassel, Germany from 12 December. It will include 30 works by Colin McCahon and is a collaboration between museum director René Block and the Auckland Art Gallery with assistance from the Govett Brewster Art Gallery.
" Weereewa - a Festival of Lake George, 1 - 21 Feb 1999, is an arts, culture and environment festival with a particular emphasis on 'place'. Various artists workshops and community projects are happening in the lead-up to this unusual festival which is centred around the town of Bungendore just south of Lake George, the 5th oldest lake in the world and an Aboriginal sacred place. Amongst film screenings, outdoor performances on the foreshores of the lake, concerts and exhibitions is the birth of a new art form on 21 February - a "Choreographed Equestrian Dance Event" created by one of the pioneers of modern dance in Australia, Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, whose Creative Arts Centre Mirramu set in nearby bushland is the site of some of the workshops. Details from Chairperson Stan d'Argeavel on (02) 6238 1227 fax (02) 6280 7806, firstname.lastname@example.org
" Sydney Festival's visual arts offerings: highlights - Bill Viola's The Messenger at the AGNSW, Sit Up chairs from the Vitra Museum, Cupola by Lauren Berkowitz eucalyptus leaf installation in the Queen Victoria Building - Jan-Feb.
" Come Out Australia's longest running and best youth arts festival salutes the end of the 20th century by taking as its theme the world of machines - devices, gadgets and gizmos. Adelaide 19 -27 March.
" The Westendwalk arts market for the sale of Australian-made products by artists and designers (furniture, clothing, jewellery, artworks, etc) will happen every Sunday in the University of SA carpark Hindley Street West. This is part of a plan to 'articulate' the west end of the city. The Adelaide Festival set the ball rolling by moving their offices there in November.
" Australia Council Fellowships
" Bernard Smith, art historian, has been awarded a fellowship of $40,000 a year for two years. " fellowships of $80,000 each over two years have been awarded to Gwyn Hansen Pigott, Hossein Valamanesh and Gordon Bennett.
" Brisbane based Linda Carroli and Perth based Josephine Wilson have won First Prize in the Inaugural Salt Hill Journal Hypertext Contest with *water always writes in *plural. The international competition sought out the best new literature created for the Web, "solid literary hypertext fiction, poetry, and design that pushes the boundaries of this as-of-yet undefined space in which to create art." Carroli and Wilson were funded by ANAT through the Australia Council's New Media Arts Fund with simultaneous 'virtual' residencies at PICA and the IMA working collaboratively via the internet to produce work hypertextually. The winning work can be viewed at the hypertext showcase of Salt Hill Journal online and Syracuse Creative Writing, Syracuse University: http://www.hypertxt.com/sh
" The RAKA Award for Aboriginal art went to a visual artist this year, ???
" Samstag scholarships for 99 go to Christian Burford, Nicholas Folland, Paul Hoban, Deborah Paauwe (SA), Stephen Bram (Vic), Peter Alwast (Qld) Matthew Warren (Tas) and Hanh Ngo (ACT) sharing over $400,000 in stipends, travel and tuition costs.
" Janenne Eaton has won the Geelong Contemporary Art Prize of $15,000 and her winning painting Screen and Reflections - The Never Never will be acquired by the Geelong Art Gallery.
" Brought to Light: Australian Art 1850 - 1965 is an account of the Queensland Art Gallery's collection of Australian art. It comprises a series of essays reflecting on the collection and putting the work in historical context. It was assisted by the Gordon Darling Foundation, is in full colour and is available for $65. Ph (07) 3840 7290 for a flyer with details of essayists.
" John Wolseley: Land Marks is a new book by Sasha Grishin published by Craftsman House. RRP $80.
" William Delafield Cook who has lived for many years in London and is now almost an expatriate, is the subject of the new Craftsman House monograph by Deborah Hart.
" Online Education Kit for the Cairns Regional Gallery exhibition Escape Artists: Modernists in the Tropics is available at: http://www.escapeartists.com.au/edukit.html. It is the first time the Gallery has produced an education kit online to accompany a major touring exhibition and was developed by the Gallery in recognition of the increasing importance of the internet to all aspects of the school curriculum.
Brighten up your year
" 1999 Fine Art Calendar was produced by Toby Richardson, Anthony de Leo and David Solm and is available from Mindfield Bookshop (08) 8223 2335
" Matthew Talbot Hostel in Woolloomooloo has made a calendar with paintings produced by homeless men attending their recreation program.
" Framed is a series of 12 great photographs of Australian artists taken by Michel Lawrence reproduced digitally in Fuji Xerox DocuColor 70 and published by Hardie Grant in a clear CD case.
" Sarah Miller, Director of PICA, has been awarded the first Australia-Japan Arts Network placement and has been working at the Wacoal Arts Centre in Tokyo for three months.
" Chris Anderson has left his position as Director of the SA Museum to take up a job with the mining company Normandy Poseidon negotiating land leases.
" Hugo Leschen is the new manager of the Foundation for Culture and the Humanities in Melbourne.
" Julie Robb has left her position as Director of the Arts Law Centre of Australia to pursue other career moves.
" We have received, with Object magazine, funding from the Australia Council's Audience Development and Advocacy division to take Artlink to the College Art Association's Annual Conference in Los Angeles in February - the USA's biggest academic talkfest and book fair.
" Art, Pornography and Censorship raised a few eyebrows but apart from receiving a few returns from school libraries (which we thought might happen - the others are mainly placing it in the locked section) we have had no negative responses. In fact just the opposite.
" In October we held a planning meeting with members of the arts community kindly giving up their Saturday afternoon to tell us what we are doing right and wrong. Something we are putting into effect immediately is a suggestion that we publish our upcoming themes so that writers who have ideas around a topic have longer to consider in-depth articles. However, as we do not normally accept unsolicited manuscripts we advise writers to discuss ideas with the editor well in advance.
March 1999 Mining the Archive: art which draws on, comments on or intervenes in historical material. Guest Editor Zara Stanhope. This issue is fully commissioned.
June The Future of Art: what are the elements that will determine what art will look like in the next 20 years? an examination of art education, materials, criticism, cultural identity, the market. Deadline 15 March.
September Social Chaos and Apocalypse: art at the end of the millenium, the human body is the subject of investigation, the genome project, mutants etc. Deadline 15 June.
December Consumption, greed, pleasure, food, abandonment of morality in a quest for excitement - is this really what the fin de siècle is all about? Deadline 15 September.
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