Letters to the Editor
In the following letters to the editor, the authors address a variety of concerns and issues as they relate to the current Australian arts scene. The authors critically comment on what has piqued their interest, infuriated or inspired them.
Art Prizes: Artists’s cash cow?
Does Australia have too many art prizes? Are these awards too irresistible for cash strapped artists to ignore? Is a $100,000 prize too alluring when, according to David Throsby in his article “Don’t Give Up Your Day Job”, the mean creative income for visual artists is approximately $3,100 annually? Is the Australian desire for competition and sport pushing our artists to race and perform? Do art awards limit the scope, production and controversial nature of an artists potential? Can the desire for public recognition and a cash payout encourage artists to surrender their artistic integrity? How can we then, make art available to the public without the spectacle of blockbuster exhibitions and awards?
The AGNSW’s most recent gaff
Of the numerous regrettable decisions made by Australian collecting institutions, paying $16 million for a second-rate Cezanne is just the latest. Is the Australian passion for French Post-Impressionism so overwhelming that a leading institution willingly perpetuates the myth of Australian art inferiority? Auctioning off major Australian artists to pay the record price is irresponsible and damaging to the domestic market. The Cezanne has its merits and can be cited as a jewel in the AGNSW collection, but only for an institution that perceives the value is in the artist’s reputation and not the quality of the work itself.
The lingering connection between art and politics
Artworks usually are related to propaganda, whether political or individual. The Art and China’s Revolution exhibition was on at the Asia Society in New York City. It could show the aesthetic merit of the artworks which were largely produced during the period of China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-76). However, most of these artworks received great critical attention in the art market because of their political sensitivity, rather than their aesthetic value. As a Chinese art student, I wonder when Chinese artworks could be valued with less political intention.
Re-figure: A contemporary perspective on figurative representation in art
The suggestion that twentieth century representational figures, which exist as a testament of “traditional skill and idealism”, should be perceived as the pinnacle of contemporary public art is beyond my understanding. Surely Librado’s problem with our multicultural society is his failure to grasp its ability to inspire – the very same traditional ideal that appears in contemporary public art, but with less didactic purposes.
The (non)issue with public art
“Outdoor art isn’t what it used to be” – thank goodness! Ken Johnson (New York Times, 25th July 2009) mourns the decline of monolithic, neo-Classical heroic sculpture in favour of contemporary public art that offers “relatively empty experiences”, reflecting “the absence of any consensus of values in our pluralistic, multicultural society”. Contemporary outdoor art will not be to everyone’s taste, precisely because it does reflect our “pluralistic, multicultural society”, rather than a colonial, militant culture where conformity is the key to success. Give me giant flowers over generals any day.
Culture for the dinky-di Aussie
“Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” Ken Oath. During my four years overseas, I cringed every time I heard the cry. I returned home to see Shane Warne: the Musical advertised above a urinal. Bloody awesome. Is this what we’re into now? Perhaps the lowest common denominator is the key to attracting a paying audience? I can’t wait for the exhibition of “Memorable Moments of Merv Hughes’ Mo.” There’s got to be a better way of bringing people to the arts.
Hope and graffiti
The news that American artist, Shephard Fairey was arrested for graffiti while travelling to Boston for his first solo exhibition is disheartening (ABC news, 7 July 2009). Fairey created the image of Obama for the immensely successful Hope campaign, which now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. The ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy is an outdated response to graffiti. Melbourne has a better idea: the City Lights Project – a changing exhibition held in Melbourne’s laneways. The exhibition celebrates street art and recognizes that graffiti adds to the city’s heartbeat. When will law enforcers realise that graffiti has moved beyond vandalism and consider exercising some discretion?
The crumbling attention spans of the Twitter Generation
Anthony Gormley’s One & Other public project on the fourth plinth at the Triangular Square is debilitating. Gormley argues that the living effigy becomes a metaphor to reflect the diversity and vulnerability of our multifaceted society. Unfortunately, such frivolous and whimsical conduct sadly reiterates how obsessive we are with “Britain’s Got Talent”. Gormley underestimates the length of an hour and how short-lived people’s attention spans are. Andy Warhol has cracked the conundrum 40 years ago; Gormley’s plinth watch deflates before the 15 minutes, shorter if you Tweet.
Tim Maybury, I’m afraid your recent presentation at the MCA’s Creative Sydney 2009 was more lowbrow than Lo-Fi And Loving It! What a mish-mash of random, disjointed performances. It quickly degenerated from a choir of sweet old ladies, to a bizarre cabaret of black PVC leotard clad gimps, stimulating anal sex with power tools upon a pink Chewbacca; that is, before I walked out. I was told by the event’s media release to expect the unexpected. I just didn’t anticipate being embarrassed for the state of contemporary art.
Alison Van Der Linden