David Pledger. Photo: D.Matvejevas©.

Valuing the artist

David Pledger, founder director of Not Yet It’s Difficult, has published a paper titled Revaluing the Artist in the New World Order, in which he argues for a radical rethink of how a nation should manage its support for artists. Having worked extensively in Europe and Asia, he cites government mindsets and policy settings in those regions that are very different from the North American/British funding models that Australia has been wedded to. He responds to the recent Review of the Australia Council and to Simon Crean’s Cultural Policy and while he applauds the Policy as far as it goes, he identifies the tragic inability of these institutional frameworks to deal with the fact that intermedia is the defining mode of the 21st Century, and that this reality has not been factored in to future visions of the arts in this country. In his examination and comparison of the ways different countries tackle the rapid changes that we are all experiencing, he commends Belgium and Korea for their insights into the new media environments. He criticises the Australia Council on several scores, including its corporatisation of arts culture, and its promotion of the arts as an ‘‘industry’’ like any other, (epitomised by employing a former CEO of Telstra as its Director), but also for its lamentable lack of Asia-literacy over the past few decades, when more geographically disadvantaged countries such as Germany have been so much more proactive.

Pledger’s targets for radical review include the ‘‘creative industries’’ dogma that we are all so heartily sick of; the relegation of artists to bottomfeeders in the arts ecology in which they are now rarely appointed to the boards of funding agencies or to any position of influence; the steady erosion since the early 1990s of actual wages and fees for artists in favour of infrastructure; the triumph of managerialism and managers over creators, and most crucially the avoidance of the essentially risky nature of innovative new artforms in favour of the safe and the uncontentious. His call to arms is for individual artists to resist, complain, demand more respect and support and even go on strike. Only this way will the gatekeepers of Australian cultural values discover that keeping artists poor and disenfranchised, endlessly writing ever more complex and technical grant applications and dreaming up KPIs denies our national culture the chance to bloom by fostering the major ingredient that creates a vibrant forward-looking society - the ideas and inventions of its best artists. His Platform Paper is published by Currency House and is available from

Art school with a view

When many art schools in Australia are licking the wounds of cost-cutting, the Adelaide Central School of Art is sailing into a grand new phase having departed its Norwood home of 20 years and set up shop in the powerful buildings of the former Glenside mental hospital which had been standing empty for 35 years. With the retirement of founding director Rod Taylor who had grown the school from its miniscule beginnings in 1982 in a disused building in the city, through a series of progressively larger and more salubrious sites, the school needed both a new director and a new home. In 2008 Ingrid Kellenbach rode in from the East and proceeded to set her sights on the new Glenside Cultural precinct, then in the throes of a huge development involving a brand new hospital and the redeployment of the 19th Century stock to house the SA Film Corporation. With the help of Chair Alan Young she secured building stock from the State Government on a 50 year lease for a peppercorn rent, and with the support of many donors in what must rate as one of the most rapid fundraising efforts of its kind in history, Kellenbach, who is both visionary and hands-on, managed to get a 3-storey heritage building with views across the precinct, to the City and the Hills, renovated, converted and occupied in record time.

Architect Steve Grieve (of Grieve Gillett) who was employed on the Film Corporation conversion and extensions, was persuaded to add an art school to his job description, the school moved in January and the Premier officially launched it in May 2013. As well as the main building, with its student studios housed in opened-up cell spaces, and glorious big painting and drawing studios as well as wet and dry sculpture studios, and many other areas of study, a historic bluestone building, formerly used as the hospital dining room, has been retrofitted to house Administration and the Central Gallery. The student cell-studios have shed their earlier grim histories, and the only relic of this, the well-fitting soundproof doors, provide students with the unusual luxury of privacy and views of trees and birds. Morale is high, and the city and state continue to regard the independent Central School as a real and viable alternative to the university-based art school which has effectively lost its identity in a thousand departmental mergers. Practising artist-lecturers include Mary Jean Richardson, Nicholas Folland, Roy Ananda, Daryl Austin, Renate Nisi, Julia Robinson, James Dodd, Sera Waters, Annalise Rees and many more. Having achieved accreditation for BA and Honours degrees and HECS loans, and with the work of its graduates seen in galleries and projects around Australia and beyond, enrolments are surging. It is a tribute to Kellenbach’s skills-plus-fortitude factor that not only has she survived the relentless workload of negotiating for the site, managing the building program and relocation whilst simultaneously redesigning the curriculum and achieving reaccreditation, but that students, teaching and administration staff and even the builders are still on the very best of terms with her.

Collective wisdom

Artist run collectives are usually set up by emerging artists, but because of the closure of many commercial galleries in Perth a group of well known, established and senior West Australian artists have decided to set up their own collectively run gallery, The Art Collective WA. Principals include Trevor Vickers, Merrck Belyea, Penny Bovell, Penny Coss, Jo Darbyshire, Chris Hopewell, Jeremy Kirwan-Ward, Eveline Kotai, Joanna Lamb, Helen Smith, Angela Stewart and Peter Zappa. Dianne Mossensen, principal of the former Mossensen-Indigenart Gallery in Subiaco, offered them the space at a very reduced rate rather than see it ripped apart and they employ another former gallerist Felicity Johnston, to run it for them. The Collective will offer visitors high end year-round exhibitions of contemporary art and organise residencies, publications and education support for the arts in WA. International, interstate and emerging artists will be invited to participate in the program.

Revolutions we have known

White Rabbit’s spring 2013 show, SERVE THE PEOPLE is curated by Edmund Capon, former director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and China art history specialist. He first encountered the maxim ‘‘Serve the People’’ in 1974 when, as a 34-year -old Maoist, he led a small group of ‘‘friends of China’’ on a tour during the Cultural Revolution. Today some of China’s artists ‘‘serve the people’’ in ways not only unintended by Mao’s phrase but expressly forbidden by him. Viewable until 2 February 2014 at the incomparable White Rabbit art collection in Chippendale, Sydney: free and open Thurs - Sun.

Asia Awards

A shiny new award for Australians doing art projects in Asia set up by Tony Burke, instant arts minister in the Rudd.v2.0 government, has honoured 17 projects in various categories: Light from Light by MAAP (Multimedia Art Asia Pacific) in the visual art category, two identical exhibitions running simultaneously in Australia and China with eleven leading artists from both countries; Gallery 4A shared the philanthropy category for its Sydney Pavilion at the Shanghai Biennale 2012; Jayne Dyer scooped the individual artist category for The Butterfly Effect, a permanent public art commission for a large Beijing building. Artlink’s Mandarin translation of Artlink Indigenous was a finalist in the Indigenous category which was won by Warburton Arts Project for their China tour of the exhibition Tu Di Shen Ti: Our land, Our Body.

Real Estate

Town Hall Gallery, part of the Hawthorn Arts Centre arts and cultural hub, re-opens in November after a major redevelopment. Curator Mardi Nowak is kicking off with Marker: 10 years of the Town Hall Gallery Collection, works from John Brack, Fred Williams, Eric Thake, Robert Clinch, Helen Maudsley, Matthew Sleeth and Selina Ou amongst others. A new Community Project Wall (CPW) will allow groups and artists from across Melbourne to exhibit to a wide audience free of gallery costs.

BOMB in Utrecht

A striking and at times humorous exhibition confronting nationalism, racism and discrimination by Australian artists Blak Douglas (aka Adam Hill) and Adam Geczy was staged for the AAMU in connection with the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht. BOMB shows a different side of the legendary European negotiations relating to the Treaty. 11 June 2013 until 5 January 2014.


Stephanie Britton is the founder and Executive Editor of Artlink.