May 19

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Art and Money : West Space Annual Fundraiser

Conservative people like conservative art. Therein lies the problem. Conservative art, unfortunately for those who have invested in it, ages very poorly. It can’t hold its price once it’s been identified as vacuous drivel. Its value can be propped up for a while by all the parties interested in keeping it up (the price that is) but ultimately, conservative art is going to depreciate, you poor gullible bastards. Art dealers will tell collectors anything to get a sale. They’ll tell you things like: “this minimalism is very avant garde”. When in fact minimalism finished 50 years back and if an artist is still doing it now, they haven’t come up with any better ideas yet. The best art collections have been put together by people who build relationships with artists. And then get the artists drunk enough to start telling the truth about each other’s art. Strap a helmet on though, because we’re a colorful bunch we artists, prone as we are to morals and values and ideas. When I read the news that in the latest budget Arts Minister George Brandis tore great wads of cash from the arts funding body Australia Council, and redirected it to his own ministerial control, Morgan laughed and said: ‘sounds like something Mussolini would do.’ Not that Fascist Dictator’s are funny, but one should worry about what George and his mates think is excellent art worth funding. A lot of people dedicate their lives attempting to work out what makes excellent culture and why. And there’s still no consensus. That’s what keeps us coming back for more. What’s a meaningful, touching performance to one, is a trite, pretentious, outdated waste of time to another. Money doesn’t make good art, artists do. George and Team George like the high-end old European stuff. Like the Royal family. Ballets such as Swan Lake get George and his mates’ creative juices fired up and ready to flow like Vesuvius. “Look at that row of extremely thin young, frail, but athlete girl/women pretending to be Swans. It’s taking a middle aged old fools breath away, really it is. They’re good girls those ballerinas, not a piercing or a tat in sight, they’re as pure as the driven snow. It takes me back to my days as President of the Young Liberal Movement. I think it’s the tutus, when they twirl about it looks just like feathers. It really is remarkable. I’m reminded too, of Oxford University and the time when I first learnt the complexities of the secret handshake. Which we continue to use henceforth. That’s when I met Tony Abbott too, over at Oxford on scholarships we were. The fun we had, roaring round the quadrangle of the Empire, going to the Ballet or we’d splash out and buy Opera tickets to the inner circle. Me: a B-grade Rumpole, Tony: like Iron Man contestant Grant Kenny. He’d wear his Speedo’s under his suit he would, oh the rapscallions we were as young men, full to overflowing with potential.” George loves the Opera. A dead genre written centuries ago by dead white European men, we need to fund some more of that reckons George. “And I’ll fund some more Classical music, written by dead white European men. Conducted by live white European men very close to death. Classical music takes me back to Villanova College in Brisbane, where I went to school during the Bjelke Petersen days. Tony and I are both still good Catholic boys, and very close to God we are too. I occasionally even make it to mass too. When I’m not busy in Parliament arguing that people still have the right to be bigots when they feel like it,” said George. Brightly. “Did you see the heaving bosom on that Soprano when she let rip in the second movement? It shuddered under the strain, what a sight! I’m heading backstage to pay my respects to that Diva (if she’ll receive me). It’s the least I can do.” Ambitious Australian artists are already writing up proposals for new projects to submit to George’s National Programme for Excellence in the Arts. One project I’ve heard is already in treatment, is a musical response to the leisure activities of rich people. Activities like Polo. Not Tom Polo. Horse/rich people Polo. James Packer polo. Kerry Packer polo. From before he bought one of his Chopper Pilot pals Kidney, because he needed a new one: ‘You’ve got two kidneys John, haven’t you?’ George Brandis loves polo as much as the Packers. The Liberal Party love rich people activities like polo and the Opera for the networking potentials. When he reads my proposal he’ll say: ‘that project sounds excellent, it really does. I like it, I want it. Here’s a wad of cash, let’s be partners and make this polo artwork real. And you say the polo horses are puppets? That’s great, I love puppets. We’ll premiere the work on the Gold Coast, then tour the work Internationally to a polo tournament somewhere posh over the seas. We’ll entertain other posh people with it, they are an overlooked portion of the art loving public, really they are. There we’ll attract some rich, proud private philanthropists to chuck some more of their private money at this really very excitingly excellent idea. What a laff. The future looks bright. Bright and shiny and we all love polo. It’s very relevant to who we think we are and who we want to be talking to. The rich people throughout the world hold the key to our success, so we can do some business with them too when they come see our excellent new work, ‘Polo: The Musical. Can it include an orchestra too? Yes, that’s great. Being the Arts Minister and getting to meet creatives like you nat, ones at the very cutting edge of their crafts, well it’s just so edgy and interesting. People always love satire. I had no idea art could mean so much to people.’ I suspect Cate Blancett knew all about Brandis’ rechanneling of cash. It’s been bugging me. She was on the ABC at Venice, the weekend before the budget was announced, talking about the tapering off of Government funding of the Arts like she’s a government spokesman herself. Evidently private philanthropists are going to save us like they did American artists. Private philanthropists and Corporate philanthropy will answer all our prayers. I want to like Cate, but now she’s part of the problem too. Celebrity doing celebrity but pretending it’s for the greater good. Boring! Remember Warhol? He used celebrities, not vice versa. Standing on her mark, reciting the lines someone else wrote her, with the flawless complexion necessary to have a career as an actress. You can’t trust actors when you can’t tell whether they’re acting or not. Cate uses the Australian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale as a personal press conference. She’s been turning up and hogging the limelight since Ricky Swallow got the Guernsey and did us proud. That work Ricky carved, the skeleton climbing a ladder, it was a portrait of the Australian Creative Industries. I’ve started liking it finally. Art is funny that way, sometimes it takes a while for us to catch up. Meanings change. I’m questioning what our Cate knows about art. Cate Blancett seems more interested in money and getting her poor sweet hubby whats-his-name, his sweet little cushy theatre/drama gig all of his own. So he’s not over-shadowed, poor thing. So they can stage A Streetcar Named Desire again or a Beckett play and pretend to be all political. Shiny Sydney Hollywood political! I’m tired of everyone leveraging every angle to feather their own nests, and we have to pretend we don’t see. It’s all getting incredibly close to that character Cate played in Blue Jasmine isn’t it? Woody Allen’s morality tale about the perils of worshipping money. And how all the money in the world can’t buy you your integrity back once its been sold. Cate, gender equity issues exist in the theatre, and at the Sydney Theatre Company too, here’s an article discussing them. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/the-sound-and-the-fury-of-australias-women-playwrights/story-fn9n8gph-1226508371732 And here’s a quote from your husband talking about the issue: Upton denies the theatre has ever been a boys club. He says when it comes to choosing plays at the STC “we always look for quality and, in the end, that’s the shortlist”. That sounds like your husband thinks there’s no quality plays written by women Cate. Can you see the problems I’m having here with this well funded sexism? Can you Cate? Are you telling the Arts Minister George Brandis what we think Cate, or are you telling him what he wants to hear because your own slice of the funding pie is secure? Next, up pops B-grade Cate Blancett, Rachel Griffith: another actress waxing lyrical about the mysteries of art. Or are they both just stalking camera crews around the planet? When actresses get more airtime than the exhibiting artist at Venice, you know you’re in strife. Where’s Toni Collette? If she were to turn up, they could make the Three Stooges do Venice! Baz Lurhman could direct it, with shiny, shiny costumes and sets by his missus Catherine Martin. An acapella ensemble number on a gondola: ‘LOOK AT THIS PAINTING! I’M ALMOST FAINTING!’ © This thing is writing itself! It could be nominated for an Oscar for goodness sakes! It could bag a swag of Oscars. It could revive the defunct Australian Movie Industry! If we invest our money right, it could do that! Baz has a proven track record as a leading industry leader of excellence. We’ll all pretend he doesn’t make Romeo and Juliet over and over again but in different frocks. Closer to home (and away from politicians and arts funding which we can agree are boring) and resembling a good old fashioned knees up celebration of creative endeavour was the annual West Space fundraiser. It saw a gallery of artists making a gazillion bucks selling their pigs at market. At the West Space fundraiser everybody gets flush, there’s a tick box offer of a 50/50 split between the gallery and the 112 Exhibiting Artists donating their very high calibre art. Which is fair enough. It’s one of those rare events: it’s a win/win situation. Canny art collectors and investors were queued up at the pay desk like compliant job seekers at a Centrelink Office, looking nervous for fear that their chosen treasure would be snapped up before they could be processed. Fundraising guru Tamsen Hogkinson made a record number of bucket loads of cash for artists and for the small to medium sized arts organization West Space. West Space shows a dynamic program showcasing a shitload of artists and art. West Space is the type of place that feeds the higher end of town, the commercial gallery system and the huge and well-funded public art gallery down the street. This is the type of organisation that is being hit by George and his arts funding ideas. But fear not. Tamsen is so adept at selling art it’s rumored she will be launching a new Commercial Art Gallery of her own, name yet to be decided. We need more art galleries for the art and artists Universities continue to churn out, not less. Potential creativity has a shelf life. How much talent will we lose with the consolidation of resources to a few at the top of the Pyramid? That’s the arts funding policy. Back the winners up the top. I’m sick now of thinking about art and money and funding and shit. It’s boring. I do recall Richard Flanagan talking about his Dad. His Dad always told them: ‘Money is like Shit. If you pile it up high all in one place it stinks and kills everything underneath it. If you spread a thin layer out over a large area all manner of interesting things will sprout out of it.’ http://westspace.org.au

Danny and Leuwan

Danny and Leuan

Monica and Sue Dodd

Monica and Sue Dodd

Crowd West Space

Crowd West Space

If u need to raise cash, call Tamsen

If u need to raise cash, call Tamsen

Sean Bailey and Serena Bentley

Sean Bailey and Serena Bentley

Brendan Huntley

Brendan Huntley

A lot of baggage

A lot of baggage

Erica and Tamsen Hopkinson

Erica and Tamsen Hopkinson

Care for some refreshment?

Care for some refreshment?

New Gallery Director Patrice Sharkey

New Gallery Director Patrice Sharkey

Adam Cruickshank, Serena and Don

Adam Cruickshank, Serena and Don

Angela Brennan untitled, a steal at 1800 smackers

Angela Brennan Untitled, a steal at 1800 smackers

Woody, Steph and the Coloured Hair Crew

Woody and Steph 

Dan Bell, detail

Dan Bell, detail

George, adored by daughters Alexandra and Christina over-exposed

George, adored by daughters Alexandra and Christina over-exposed

Dan, Nikos and crowd

Dan, Nikos and crowd

Woody and Steph and the Coloured hair crew

Woody and Steph again

Trevelyan Clay prays to the money gods

Trevelyan Clay prays to the money gods

Trevelyan bagged some cash

Trevelyan bagged some cash

Oscar Perry, detail

Oscar Perry, detail

Oscar Perry, detail with fluff

Oscar Perry, detail with fluff

Jimmy Nuttall and Tamsen

Jimmy Nuttall and Tamsen

Crowd scene

Emily Siddons and some other dudes

Pirate, detail

Pirate, detail

Mia and Woody McDonald

Mia and Woody McDonald

Jimmy dances

Jimmy dances

Jimmy Dances 2

Jimmy Dances 2

Out for food time

Out for food time

Loadsa money

Loadsa money

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