New Victorian
Liberal Leader, Ted Baillieu, has been making some progressive noises on
subjects like decriminalising abortion – but when it comes to the arts that old
Tory philistinism is not far from the surface.

Geelong Art Gallery
has the chance to buy Eugene von Guerard’s View of Geelong from Andrew Lloyd
Webber for $3.8 million (he bought it for $2 million a decade ago). The State
Government has weighed in with a pledge to match community contributions up to
$1.5 million and the Geelong Council has promised $600,000.

Everyone is, of
course, a bit upset that the Dan Brown of music ( or is Dan Brown the Lloyd
Webber of writing?) will make a tidy profit on top of the huge amounts he has
made from ransacking history for great tunes and then rendering them
excruciating, but the painting is probably too important to pass up for these
sorts of aesthetic reasons.

Ted has said he’s
happy for the purchase to go ahead because he gathers the people of Geelong are
attached to the painting, but doubts that it is a priority. Indeed,
in one of those awful alliterative soundbites to which second-rate media
advisers are addicted, Ted goes on to say, according to The Age on May 13, that
“in the future, people will be our priority, not paintings.”

While this is a slap
in the face to the Kennett arts heritage it is also a warning to all art
galleries, and similar institutions, that they are apparently not a priority in
government spending under a Baillieu Government. Perhaps if it were a Pro Hart it
might be different!