Let me start with an important clarification. In my report yesterday
(item 7) on the Australia Council’s handling of the selection process for
the Venice Biennale, a key word was missing from one sentence.

In referring to concerns about the Australia Council’s fund-raising efforts
for Venice, I meant to say:

Senior figures in the public gallery network complain that they
are now facing direct competition from the Australia Council as (John) Kaldor
chases handouts from a limited pool of visual arts patrons and sponsors.

Somehow I omitted the word network, and might have conveyed the
impression that senior figures in just one gallery were unhappy with the
situation.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As I reported earlier this week,
there is widespread concern about the way the national arts funding body has
managed Australia’s contribution to next year’s biennale.

Senior figures in many institutions, along with a large number of artists,
art dealers and freelance curators, have been vociferous in their criticism of
the entire process.

Sure, none of them have been prepared to go on the record, but anyone who
knows what a small and vengeful place the art world is will appreciate that it
can be a very bad career move saying what you really think out loud.

Meanwhile, the Australia Council continues its smoke and mirrors approach
to accountability. After being told by the council earlier this week that the
three exhibitions planned for Venice next year will cost an estimated $1.6
million, I asked how much of this would be taxpayer funded and how much would
have to be raised from private sources. This is an extremely simple question
but, two days later, I am still waiting for answer.

Also, it’s hard to believe the $1.6 million figure. That’s roughly the same
budget for the 2005 Venice Biennale, when we were represented by only one
artist, Ricky Swallow, who showed in the Australian Pavilion.

Next year Daniel von Sturmer will use the Australian Pavilion while Callum
Morton and Susan Norrie will exhibit in rented temporary exhibition spaces
outside the Biennale precinct.

If the Crikey Army can cast any further light on this disturbingly opaque
process, I’d be happy to hear from you. [email protected]

Peter Fray

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