CULTURAL POLICY AND THE ARTS PORTFOLIO
Before Simon Crean dropped out of sight, he delivered the new national cultural policy Creative Australia, including a welcome funding boost to the Australia Council. New Federal Arts (and Environment) Minister Tony Burke is not about to fiddle with this document, five years in the gestation, and has scrambled to assure the constituency that he is going to push for it to be accepted in the Budget. A range of specified increases go to the performing arts sector, and the importance of creative industries is emphasised, (the Census says that cultural work in 2011 accounted for 5.3% of the economy) and the digital arts linked to high speed broadband delivery are high on the priority list, as are Indigenous arts. Ironically the policy includes a commitment to a sector review of skills training, just as TAFE colleges in Victoria and NSW have had their courses slashed. The loss of this intermediate level of arts training damages the arts education fabric in metropolitan Australia, but is particularly bad news in regional towns where the local TAFE is the only place offering arts beyond high school, and often fills a vital social need for individuals who fall between the cracks. Many are the anecdotes from teachers about homeless people or the recently retrenched whose lives have been turned around by admission to a TAFE art course. Prior to delivery of Creative Australia, the Australia Council was reviewed by a team of consultants, with some somewhat disturbing recommendations, which are now embodied in proposed changes to the Australia Council Act, currently being debated in the parliament. They include getting rid of the Art Form Boards, and replacing them with 'more flexible' committees and panels of peers. More worryingly there is no guarantee that the Australia Council Board itself would include people who have specialist knowledge of the field. ArtsPeak has made submissions to a Senate Enquiry to offer alternative solutions. In this scenario it will be some kind of a miracle if the funding increases in the Cultural Policy make it through the minefield. BROADBAND AND ART Tech-savvy artists and others were the beneficiaries of the Australia Council’s Broadband Arts Initiative last year, totalling $350,000. They include media artist Keith Armstrong, the Terrapin Puppet Theatre and Marcus Westbury with Screen Portal Project connecting artists and audiences in real-time interactions on high definition, life-size audio visual screens in public spaces in NSW and the NT, as part of the 2013 International Symposium on Electronic Arts which opens on June 8 in Sydney. See the artists talking at www.australiacouncil.gov.au/broadband-arts-initiative Artlink was fortunate enough to receive support from this fund to enhance our App with moving image content and to publish E-books and anthologies. CATCHING UP Sydney Modern is the working title for the initiative of newly appointed Director of the Art Gallery of NSW Michael Brand, to expand the building and transform the museum’s stately old heritage vistas with a modern entry precinct, new wings and spaces for bigger and better exhibitions and events. Spurred on by museum building expansions in Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra in the last decade, the goal is to transit to a new look and lots more space inside to mount the kinds of shows and bring in the kinds of crowds that GOMA, NGV and NGA are getting. The estimated cost is 100s of millions, and the gallery is busy securing support from the City of Sydney and NSW state government as well as private philanthropists. The architect who eventually gets the job will need to be bold to pull off this design challenge. INTERNATIONAL Australia will be the first survey of Australian art to be seen in the UK for about forty years. Initiated by the National Gallery of Australia, and co-curated by the Royal Academy's director of exhibitions, Kathleen Soriano, it is themed on land and landscape, and aims to bring the British art-interested public up to date with what’s been going on here for the past 200 years or so. Royal Academy, London, 21 September - 8 December 2013. www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/01/200-years-australian-art • Lena Nyadbi (Gija, East Kimberley, WA) will create a giant painted installation filling the entire rooftop of the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. The adaptation of one of the artist’s signature black and white paintings will measure almost 700 square metres and is titled Dayiwul Lirlmim (Barramundi Scales). It is designed to be viewed from the Eiffel Tower and by Google Earth users, making it one of the largest artworks made by an Australian artist. It was commissioned in a partnership between the Australia Council, the museum and the Harold Mitchell Foundation and will be unveiled on 6 June 2013. • Simryn Gill has just left Australia to set up her work in the Australian Pavilion for the forthcoming Venice Biennale in June. Her exhibition is being curated by Catherine de Zegher. 1 June – 24 November, 2013. 2014 Palmer Sculpture Biennial Ken Scarlett is the co-curator with founder Greg Johns for this biennial event held in the dramatic dryland setting of Palmer just outside Adelaide from 8 – 23 March 2014. Past editions have attracted artists from interstate and overseas. Featured artist for this edition is David Jenz. Expressions of interest are open until 10 June. The requirement to express interest in the event is the submission of a concept outline with supporting drawing/documentation after a visit to the site. See www.palmersculpturebiennial.org or email Greg on email@example.com MINING MONEY The Art Gallery of Western Australia with support from the Rio Tinto Community Investment Fund has announced the launch of a six-year $1.8 million Kimberley art initiative Desert River Sea: Kimberley Art Then & Now. The main thrust of this is helping to connect art centres of the region through an online portal and fostering emerging artists and leaders. BOOKS The Art of Science by John Kean, presents the best of Museum Victoria’s collection of natural history artworks from its rare books, field sketches, art works and taxonomic studies, and features some of the most exquisite and important illustrations of flora and fauna ever created. The book also traces the lives, curiosities and observations of the artists and explorers, who often worked against the odds to gather and record. An exhibition of the same name is currently touring nationally. Museum Publishing RRP $50.00 MURALS AND BALLS Two unfolding episodes point to the uncertain fate of public art when developers and planners get going. Adelaide’s Rundle Mall, famous for the Spheres (aka Bert’s Balls) by the late Bert Flugelman, is having a facelift, and the designers have deemed that all the ‘clutter’ should be cleared out of the central axis. The 4m high Spheres will be unceremoniously shunted sideways, towards one of the shops. Given that it was sited dead centre by the artist as a meeting place and magnet for visitors, and is the one thing that distinguishes Rundle Mall from every other city mall, this is short-sighted to say the least. It is particularly sad that just a few days before he died the artist said he was very disappointed to hear about the proposed displacement. Still in Adelaide, up on Prospect Rd, is a celebrated 30-year-old mural, The History of Australia, arguably the major achievement of the internationally recognised Prospect Mural Group founded in 1978. It is on the wall of the former JM Williams boot factory, and the current owner has decided he wants to paint it out. Prospect Council is currently considering how it can protect it. Not all sculptures and murals need to be protected, but when cases like these come up, it is clear that there need to be protocols in place for local councils to help them act swiftly to make sure important historical works of art are not insensitively relocated or disappear overnight. GLOWING LIGHT Luminous World – Contemporary Art from the Wesfarmers Collection is an exhibition curated by Helen Carroll, on the theme of light. All the work comes from the Wesfarmers collection of contemporary art founded over thirty years ago and includes a vast range of work from Australia and New Zealand including gems from the colonial era. It has always been active in showing and touring parts of the collection, but for the first time, Wesfarmers and the Art Gallery of Western Australia have collaborated on a show of 60 contemporary works from 50 artists including Susan Norrie, Rosemary Laing and Howard Taylor. Touring to Charles Darwin University Gallery, National Library, Canberra, and Samstag Museum, Adelaide. The book by Helen Carroll has essays and poetry by Bill Henson, Richard Mills and John Kinsella. RRP $39.95 From Chengdu to Barcelona Billed as the biggest and most extensive show of Chinese contemporary art outside China in 2013, Pure Views: the transformation of contemporary Chinese art, is curated by historian Lu Peng, and organised by Chengdu MOCA with the Arts Santa Mònica-Departament de Cultura, Generalitat de Catalunya in Barcelona. It is a survey from around 1995 with the early very intense pieces to a recent revival of interest in traditional culture, by 31 significant artists including Cao Jingping, Fang Lijun, He Sen, Hong Lei, Jin Jiangbo, Li Qing, Qiu Anxiong, Shen Na, Shi Jinsong, Ta Men, Tu Hongtao, Wang Guangyi, Xie Fan, Yue Minjun and Zhang Peili. Arts Santa Mònica-Barcelona, 3 July - 28 September 2013. PEOPLE • Chris Saines is Queensland Art Gallery’s new Director. A former manager at QAG, he was Director of Auckland Art Gallery for 16 years where he set up the Auckland Triennial and oversaw a major redevelopment. • Suhanya Raffel, formerly Curatorial Manager Asia/Pacific Art and then Acting Director at Queensland Art Gallery, is the new Collections Manager at the Art Gallery of NSW. • Nick Mitzevitch, Director of the Art Gallery of SA, is curating the Adelaide Biennial and Richard Grayson is curating the Adelaide International, the two main visual arts components of the 2014 Adelaide Festival. • Blair French, formerly Director of Artspace in Sydney, has been appointed Assistant Director, Curatorial and Digital at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. • Robert Leonard is leaving the IMA in Brisbane at the end of 2013 to become Senior Curator at City Gallery Wellington. • Kelly Gellatly is the new director of The Potter Museum, University of Melbourne, it is rumoured there were 180 applicants. • Charlotte Day is the new director of the Monash University Museum of Art. • Hossein Valamanesh has been awarded a Smithsonian Artists Research Fellowship to work with collections of the Freer/Sackler Islamic collections in Washington which he will undertake in 2014. • Imants Tillers won the Wynne Prize for landscape with his painting Namatjira. • Del Kathryn Barton won the Archibald Prize with a portrait of Hugo Weaving. ARTLINK GOES TO BERLIN Artlink Indigenous is on the road again, this time to Berlin 19 - 22 September during Berlin Art Week when the city becomes even more of a hub of visual arts activity than usual. The Artlink delegation of artists, writers and curators will discuss Australian Indigenous art at a specially convened forum at the Preview Berlin Art Fair and across town the magazine will be on sale at the art book and magazine event MISS READ under the banner of the abc art berlin contemporary art fair. We also plan to connect with the emerging powerhouse of world culture, the Humboldt Forum, which is taking a new attitude to its massive colonial and historic collections from world cultures and seeking input from today’s Indigenous people in their interpretation. OBITUARIES Janet Mansfield A tireless supporter and worker for ceramics through her book and magazine publishing, her lecturing, service on Councils and Boards, gallery owner and as a judge of awards, Janet Mansfield died in February 2013. A talented ceramicist, her magazine career began with her editorship of Pottery in Australia for the Australian Potter’s Society followed in 1990 by her starting her own long-running magazine Ceramics: Art and Perception. Her opening strategy to source the editorial and advertising internationally stood the test of time and by steadily working through countless major and minor practitioners and exhibitions all over the world she tapped into a much larger pool of interested readers and professionals than any nationally based magazine could ever achieve. The byproduct was keeping Australian ceramicists on the world stage. The sister magazine Ceramics Technical followed and then her own books on ceramics. Seemingly unstoppable, cancer claimed her in February 2013. She was admired for her friendly, positive and generous nature and will be greatly missed. Bert Flugelman AM Bert was funny and charming and direct. His wide-ranging interests and intelligence gave him easy entrée into every level of society, from steelworkers or young students to Judges and Parliamentarians. He was curious about people and cut to the chase usually with a witticism accompanied by a wicked grin. During his tenure at art schools as Head of Sculpture students tended to emulate his own practice of ignoring curricula and doing whatever it took to make challenging and relevant work in whatever medium or mode they could devise. As his wife Rosemary said at his funeral, his credo seemed to be to "just go for it". Bert’s roots were deep in Australia despite his childhood in Vienna. He was fully engaged with the bush, the rainforest, the outback, and the cities, and he invented and played with forms that resonated with all of these places as well as having a firm grasp of his relationship with European and other cultural milieus. His indomitable confidence in his work meant that he succeeded in getting more serious public sculpture up and keeping it there than probably any other sculptor in Australia. The multiple obstacles placed in the path of sculptors were laid low by his simple assumption that the project must succeed and without compromise. His ability to persuade funders and officials to see it his way meant not only that the works were realised, but they went up without rancour and with a legacy of firm friendships with officials and architects in charge of the projects. Naturally his work was not understood or appreciated by everyone, but a significant segment of the public grew to love the large reflective geometric pieces, and many have become city landmarks. Fellow artists, arts agencies and others have quickly rallied to protect any that were threatened with removal by city fathers (read developers). As well as many significantly good pieces, his legacy may well be the creation of a lively interface between new art and city spaces, opening up possibilities for more artists to influence cities with work that both engages and challenges. He died in February 2013 aged 90.