You may recall my little hissy fit last week over the
choice of three artists, instead of the usual one, to represent Australia at the
2007 Venice Biennale. I opined that it lacked curatorial nerve to depart from the tradition of
selecting just one artist, and I described as nonsense the assertion (put out by
the Australia Council) that the selected artists represented “the richness and
diversity of Australian contemporary art”.

Given that a great deal of public money will be
spent on this event, I thought it would be good to cast a little light on the
selection process. Just to recap – two Melbourne artists, Callum Morton and Daniel Von
Sturmer, and Sydney artist Susan Norrie have been chosen from a field of 57
applicants to go to Venice next year.

They were selected by a panel of visual arts heavyweights – Lesley Alway,
the Chair of the Australia Council’s Visual Arts Board and Director of the
Museum of Modern Art at Heidi; Juliana Engberg, the Artistic Director of the
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and former visual arts curator of the
Melbourne Festival; Rachel Kent, the senior curator at Sydney’s Museum of
Contemporary Art; and John Kaldor, the Australian Commissioner for the Venice
Biennale and former chairman of the MCA.

I am not questioning the worthiness of any of the three artists chosen, nor
am I questioning the credentials of any of the four members of the selection
panel. Nevertheless, for the sake of transparency, I put the following questions
to the Australia Council today:

  • Do any members of the selection panel for the 2007 Venice Biennale own
    any works by any of the three artists selected to represent Australia next year?

  • Was there any protocol in place to ensure that members of the selection
    panel declared ownership of work by any of the selected artists?

  • If any of the selection panel do own work by any of the selected artists,
    when was that work purchased?

  • What is the 2007 Venice Biennale project likely to cost the Australia
    Council? If you don’t have an estimate for 2007, the figures for 2005 will be

  • A breakdown of the figures, if possible – fees to artists, materials,
    airfares and accommodation (including travel costs for curatorial &
    OZCOUNCIL reps).

The Australia Council spinner, Jane Silversmith, promised to get back
to me soon. I will keep you posted. If the Crikey Army can help with any of these
questions, feel free to drop me a line: [email protected]

Declaration: Two years ago, during a period in
which I wasn’t doing any arts journalism, I conducted a media-training seminar
for Rachel Kent and her colleagues at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Peter Fray

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