Why is the
Australia Council so reluctant to answer questions about a campaign to
raise money to stage Australia’s contribution to next year’s Venice
Biennale?

During the past week, Crikey has been trying to get the
national arts funding body to confirm several reports we’ve received of
the fundraising efforts of uber-influential art world couple John
Kaldor and Naomi Milgrom.

Milgrom and Kaldor are not only
partners in life, they’re also a formidable team in contemporary art
circles. Kaldor, a long-time art collector who made his money as a
textile designer, is the Australia Council’s commissioner for Venice
and headed the selection panel that chose the three artists to
represent Australia at the 2007 event. Milgrom, who owns the Sussan
fashion group, is chair of Melbourne’s Australian Centre for
Contemporary Art, and a former trustee of the National Gallery of
Victoria.

According to various sources to whom Crikey’s spoken,
Kaldor and Milgrom recently hosted a gathering of well-heeled art
collectors at Milgrom’s home in Melbourne to promote a grand VIP tour
of the biennale. Apparently the assembled guests were told the tour
would cost $6,000 per couple. That’s not including airfares and
accommodation but, we’re told, it does include entry to the biennale, a
lunch, private tours of exhibitions, several lectures and invites to
the big opening night party. (Last time Mick Jagger turned up to the
opening night bash.)

It’s believed Kaldor and Milgrom are hoping
to sign up 40 couples for the tour. That would raise $240,000 toward
the estimated $800,000 target that the Australia Council is aiming to
get from private sources. The total budget for Australia’s three
exhibitions in Venice is estimated at $1.6 million, with 50% coming
from taxpayers.

Crikey emailed a list of questions to the
Australia Council about Kaldor and Milgrom’s fundraising drive last
Thursday. But so far we’ve received absolutely no response.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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