Art and Enterprise

Much of the art world in Western Australia has several decades of experience of interacting professionally with Europe, North America and more recently Asia. This is in part due to geography and in part to do with history and commerce. The western third of Australia has a population of only 1.85 million with the capital Perth physically closer to Asia than to the east coast. It is a place from where it is possible to fly to Europe for less than a normal airfare to Brisbane.

The need to be creative in problem-solving is a way of life in Western Australia, which was founded originally on private enterprise, and widely known in the 1980s for its four-on-the-floor entrepreneurs with crash through or crash mentalities. Enterprise however is not confined to business. Perth has the longest running and largest multi-arts festival in Australia, fifty years old this year. The legendary Skinner Galleries, which opened in 1958, was one of the first commercial galleries in Australia showcasing famous internationals for each festival, while the Fremantle Arts Centre, also the first of its kind in Australia, is thirty years old.

There has also been an excellent record of achievers supporting their own while building their art collections. They have a choice of work from graduates of four major art schools. Some of the artists will have been 'found' by an energetic gallery or an enthusiastic art critic but as elsewhere the artists who are individually enterprising are more likely to achieve success than those of equal ability without such drive.

Entrepreneurial skills become doubly necessary when physically distant from the centres of power. The major problem in Western Australia is that the population is too small to support the number of quality artists. Export is a necessity and there can be difficulties gaining entree to the Eastern States markets or coverage in east coast-based publications. International networking courtesy of the Craft Council movement and personal contacts have been equally useful in enabling many to develop international careers.

Within this volume we have tried to cover issues of national concern via a diverse range of the new work being made in Western Australia using a sample of artists, galleries and collections with diverse strategies to take their art to the world.

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