As Crikey
readers would be aware, we have been expressing concern in recent
months about the selection process and planning for Australia’s
contribution to next year’s Venice Biennale (29 May, item 16). It has been no easy thing
getting even the most basic information out of the nation’s principal
arts funding body, The Australia Council.

One gets the feeling that the boffins at OzCo think that transparency is a
format in photography and not something that should be of too much concern to a
taxpayer-funded organisation. Yesterday I finally received a response to a set of very simple questions
that I sent to the OzCo PR flacks a week ago.

I wanted to know why the budget for next year’s biennale was only
$1.6 million, the same as the 2005 event, when three artists will be
representing Australia in 2007, instead of only one artist last time.
This was the response: “The 2005 budget included the costs of
improvements to the Pavilion. These costs will not be incurred in

This answer wasn’t entirely satisfactory. It was hard to compare the actual
exhibition costs from one biennale to the next without knowing how much was
spent renovating Australia’s pavilion in 2005. So I shot back an email asking for a figure on the renovation costs. I
wouldn’t have thought it would be a state secret but apparently it is.

This is the OzCo reply: “We’ve answered all your questions on the matter to the level of detail we
feel is appropriate.”

There is widespread disquiet and growing anger in the visual arts community
over the way OzCo has handled planning for next year’s biennale, including the
way the artists were chosen. It is hardly surprising people are unhappy when the organisation refuses to
answer the simplest of questions.

If the new OzCo chair, James Strong, really cares about proper corporate
governance, he should not tolerate this appallingly opaque approach to