DIRTY MONEY?

Arts fund­ing in Aus­tralia is be­com­ing an eth­i­cal mine­field, and key play­ers are ner­vous. Sharon Verghis in­ves­ti­gates

The Weekend Australian - Review - - FRONT PAGE -

EARLY last month, Lon­don’s Bri­tish Mu­seum opened a new ex­hi­bi­tion, Vi

kings: Life and Leg­end, in the big­gest show of its kind in 30 years. More than 50,000 vis­i­tors have so far flocked to the mu­seum’s new Sains­bury Ex­hi­bi­tions Gallery to view items rang­ing from fight­ing axes, amulets and dragon fig­ure­heads, to skele­tons, old coins and an im­pos­ing 37m-long Vik­ing tim­ber war­ship. Al­ready the third most suc­cess­ful show in the mu­seum’s his­tory in terms of pre-open­ing ticket sales, it has been sold out ev­ery day since its open­ing in the first week of March.

“Tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions of this na­ture are only pos­si­ble thanks to ex­ter­nal sup­port,” Bri­tish Mu­seum di­rec­tor Neil MacGre­gor said last month. “So I am hugely grate­ful to BP for their long­stand­ing and on­go­ing com­mit­ment to the Bri­tish Mu­seum.” Oil gi­ant BP, in turn, said it was “ex­tremely pleased” to sup­port the show, the first ex­hi­bi­tion of a new five-year part­ner­ship be­tween it and the mu­seum.

Not ev­ery­one has been as warmly ap­pre­cia­tive of this part­ner­ship. Dur­ing the past few years, a bur­geon­ing coali­tion of Bri­tish ac­tivists united un­der the ban­ner “art not oil” has tar­geted BP’s spon­sor­ship of the Bri­tish Mu­seum. The Tate Gal­leries, whose undis­closed deal with BP ex­pires in 2016, is an­other Bri­tish cul­tural sym­bol to have come in for sus­tained at­tack, with be­sieged Tate di­rec­tor Ni­cholas Serota fac­ing ev­ery­thing from an 8000-strong pe­ti­tion, mem­ber res­ig­na­tions, let­ter cam­paigns and, just last week, an ad­verse rul­ing against the Tate for breach­ing Bri­tish Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion laws in its deal­ings with pro­test­ers. (Tri­umphant ac­tivist Kevin Smith from Bri­tish oil in­dus­try watch­dog Plat­form tells Re­view it is the cul­mi­na­tion of a two-year le­gal bat­tle with the in­sti­tu­tion.) Bri­tish artist Peter McDon­nell, a mem­ber of ac­tivist group Lib­er­ate Tate, is one of many who be­lieves the cul­tural sec­tor should not be giv­ing so­cial le­git­i­macy to any big oil cor­po­ra­tion by ac­cept­ing spon­sor­ship; it is essen- tially “blood money” to buy pub­lic good­will and white­wash de­struc­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal prac­tices. Rolling protests will con­tinue un­til all ties are sev­ered, McDon­nell tells Re­view from Lon­don. “So I wouldn’t be sur­prised if some­thing hap­pens dur­ing the Vik­ings ex­hi­bi­tion.”

Bri­tain’s eth­i­cal fund­ing of the arts move­ment has been mo­bil­is­ing for years against what par­tic­i­pants see as the “alarm­ing” in­cur­sion of the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try, in par­tic­u­lar, into the Bri­tish cul­tural sec­tor. Ap­palled by what they see as the stain this leaves on Bri­tain’s “cul­tural pat­ri­mony”, ac­tivists have pur­sued their commercial prey by draw­ing on a rich and cre­ative ar­se­nal: un­sanc­tioned cho­ral “flash mobs” by the so-called “Shell Out Sounds” choir; de­liv­er­ing a 16.5m wind tur­bine blade in­side the Tate Mod­ern’s Tur­bine Hall; 50 veiled per­form­ers chant­ing facts about car­bon emis­sions; oil, feath­ers and five tonnes of mo­lasses be­ing dumped on Tate grounds; mock Shake­speare per­for­mances; guerilla theatre “in­ter­ven­tions”; and per­for­mances such as a naked woman cov­ered in oil on the floor of the Tate.

In Fe­bru­ary, ac­tivists say they claimed the scalp of Royal Dutch Shell, which has ended its spon­sor­ship af­ter eight years of South­bank Cen­tre’s clas­si­cal mu­sic se­ries. The venue’s 2014-15 clas­si­cal sea­son will no longer in­clude a se­ries spon­sored by the oil gi­ant.

Other claimed suc­cesses in­clude forc­ing the 2008 with­drawal of Shell as a spon­sor of the Na­tional His­tory Mu­seum’s Wildlife Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year award, and sev­er­ing Ital­ian arms dealer Fin­mec­ca­nica’s ties with the Na­tional Gallery in 2012.

McDon­nell and his com­pa­tri­ots have been ob­serv­ing keenly as the Aus­tralian arts sec­tor grap­ples with its own eth­i­cal fund­ing protests. The first was the re­cent boy­cott at the Syd­ney Bi­en­nale by artists protest­ing against the spon­sor­ship by Trans­field Hold­ings — a mi­nor­ity share­holder in Trans­field Ser­vices, which ful­fills a govern­ment se­cu­rity con­tract for Aus­tralia’s off­shore de­ten­tion cen­tre on Manus Is­land. The

THE AUS­TRALIAN PROTESTS SIG­NAL THE EMER­GENCE OF A UK-STYLE FORM OF AC­TIVISM

sec­ond was a smaller but equally pas­sion­ate protest by anti-frack­ing ac­tivists Gen­er­a­tion Al­pha who tar­geted coal-seam gas com­pany San­tos’s spon­sor­ship of a ma­jor show by Chi­nese artist Cai Guo-Qiang at Queens­land’s Gallery of Mod­ern Art. That protest fea­tured stunts in­volv­ing a fake dead koala and the “poi­son­ing” of a key art­work with a vial of “murky, stinky” wa­ter from a ura­nium-pol­luted aquifer in north­west­ern NSW’s Pil­liga for­est. (San­tos was fined $1500 in Fe­bru­ary for caus­ing a proven case of con­tam­i­na­tion.)

Gen­er­a­tion Al­pha ac­tivist Ben Pen­nings echoed the sen­ti­ments of his Bri­tish coun­ter­parts when he called for the gallery to for­sake all “tainted” funds from the CSG op­er­a­tor. The gallery, which says it is in “on­go­ing and pos­i­tive” di­a­logue un­re­lated to the protests as to the fu­ture of its $1.5 mil­lion, five-year San­tos deal af­ter it ex­pires next year, has strongly main­tained sup­port for its spon­sor, while San­tos has come out fir­ing.

Says San­tos spokesman Brad Burke: “Dis­hon­est and mis­lead­ing claims made by ex­trem­ists about our op­er­a­tions will have no im­pact on sup­port we pro­vide for the ben­e­fit of the main­stream com­mu­nity in Queens­land.”

To some alarmed Aus­tralian arts ob­servers, these two protests po­ten­tially sig­nal the emer­gence of a Bri­tish-style form of ac­tivism that will strike at the heart of commercial ar­range­ments painstak­ingly wrought over years be­tween the arts sec­tor, big busi­ness and pri­vate donors. Lo­cal pro­test­ers have made links with the Bri­tish groups. “We’ve been in touch with some of the artists and or­gan­i­sa­tions who were in­volved with the Bi­en­nale boy­cott and also put out a state­ment of sup­port,” McDon­nell says. “We’ve also been chat­ting to the Gen­er­a­tion Al­pha folks and are re­ally sup­port­ive of the in­ter­ven­tions they have been mak­ing.”

Gen­er­a­tion Al­pha’s Pen­nings is an un­abashed fan of his Bri­tish coun­ter­parts’ tac­tics and says they are in­spir­ing lo­cal ac­tivists.

“We have wit­nessed the suc­cess in the UK, and we are see­ing an on­go­ing in­crease in ac­tivism in Aus­tralia aimed at re­source com­pa­nies,” he says. “Re­source com­pa­nies use arts spon­sor­ship to gain com­mu­nity ac­cept­abil­ity, to seek a so­cial li­cence. Ac­tivists do not see their ac­tions as ac­cept­able ... and will un­der­stand­ably tar­get spon­sor­ships.”

To Fiona Men­zies, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cre­ative Part­ner­ships Aus­tralia, this ral­ly­ing cry is of con­cern. She fears re­cent in­ci­dents will send spon­sors and donors run­ning at a par­tic­u­larly fraught time for arts fund­ing. “I don’t blame them. Why put your hand up only to get beaten up by the press?”

QAGOMA di­rec­tor Chris Saines fears the back­lash will par­tic­u­larly hurt the vis­ual arts sec­tor, which has been the bat­tle­field for both Aus­tralian protests. Lonely Planet co-founder and phi­lan­thropist Tony Wheeler is a rare bullish voice, telling Re­view he isn’t as pes­simistic, but oth­ers in the sec­tor, such as aca­demic and phi­lan­thropist Gene Sher­man, an­tic­i­pate a greater cau­tion and wari­ness. Sher­man, how­ever, doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily think this is a bad thing.

Though sym­pa­thetic to the plight of Trans­field’s Bel­giorno-Net­tis fam­ily (she and hus- band Brian know the pain of go­ing from “revered to re­viled” af­ter “cash-for-names” stu­dent protests erupted fol­low­ing their $2m do­na­tion to the Univer­sity of NSW’s Col­lege of Fine Arts Padding­ton cam­pus in 2010), she says the truly pas­sion­ate and com­mit­ted core will stay but per­haps with a new “mind­ful­ness” about the ethics of their in­vest­ments and makeup of their boards.

In­vest­ment banker Si­mon Mor­dant, chair­man of the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art and Aus­tralian com­mis­sioner for the Venice Bi­en­nale, says: “Spon­sors are al­ways sen­si­tive to is­sues in the or­gan­i­sa­tions they sup­port and this has been par­tic­u­larly vis­i­ble in sports over the years when ei­ther clubs or sports have had con- tro­ver­sial events sur­round them. I am hope­ful the re­cent events won’t have a long-term im­pact on pri­vate-sec­tor sup­port for the arts as ul­ti­mately that will im­pact both artists and au­di­ence.”

The protests have trig­gered a lively de­bate about ev­ery­thing from the ethics of giv­ing to free speech and the right to protest.

Then there is the vexed ques­tion, can­vassed heav­ily in me­dia a month ago, that artists and com­pa­nies can­not have it both ways. Can one deny fund­ing from Trans­field, or any com­pany, for fill­ing a govern­ment con­tract, but then ac­cept fund­ing from that same govern­ment,

whose very poli­cies are that with which they dis­agree in the first place? Gabrielle de Vi­etri, one of the artists who with­drew from the Bi­en­nale, says there is no hypocrisy in her stance, ar­gu­ing grants are dis­trib­uted at arm’s-length.

Federal Arts Min­is­ter Ge­orge Bran­dis weighed into the de­bate, say­ing: “I don’t think arts com­pa­nies should re­ject bona fide spon­sor­ship from com­mer­cially sound, prospec­tive part­ners on po­lit­i­cal grounds.” Wheeler says if artists are “will­ing to stay starv­ing in the gar­ret in or­der to keep their con­science clean, well good for them”.

Other is­sues de­bated in­clude the ram­i­fi­ca­tions for Aus­tralian cul­tural phi­lan­thropy, and even whether so-called pure al­tru­ism ex­ists. Can any money re­ally be “pure” in an eth­i­cal sense, and does big busi­ness spon­sor­ship re­ally dis­tort the art world through self-cen­sor­ship? At a time of global aus­ter­ity, can the arts af­ford, es­sen­tially, a moral con­science, and should the arts sec­tor “take money from Satan him­self” if it can get it, as as­serted by one Bri­tish com­men­ta­tor? Is it even prac­ti­cal to di­vide arts spon­sor­ship into Manichean di­vi­sions of good and bad, and where do you draw the line when it comes to mak­ing these moral cal­i­bra­tions?

Tobacco money now fails the ac­cept­abil­ity test, cer­tainly, but it spon­sored in­ter­na­tional Vat­i­can trav­el­ling art block­busters and funded Na­tional Gallery of Aus­tralia ac­qui­si­tions un­til not so long ago. What about arms deal­ers’ spon­sor­ship, such as Thales’s sup­port of the Lon­don Trans­port Mu­seum or Fin­mec­ca­nica’s ties with the Na­tional Gallery (sev­ered only af­ter protests in 2012)?

How does Rio Tinto’s 2012 spon­sor­ship of Ban­garra’s tour to Mon­go­lia, site of the re­source gi­ant’s new $6 bil­lion Oyu Tol­goi gold and cop­per mine, stack up against con­tro­ver­sy­plagued multi­na­tional Serco’s sup­port of the Serco Il­lus­tra­tion Prize at the Lon­don Trans­port Mu­seum? How does gam­bling money weigh up against funds from frack­ing com­pa­nies, which oc­cupy a par­tic­u­larly low po­si­tion on this moral totem pole? Are they re­ally that much worse, some arts com­pa­nies heads have pointed out to Re­view, than big re­tail­ers who out­source cloth­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing to Third World coun­tries or “air­lines who axe 5000 jobs and send them over­seas”?

It’s a com­pli­cated arena, says Wheeler. “I think phi­lan­thropy and cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship very of­ten have po­ten­tial ques­tion marks,” he says. “Why are you do­ing this? To pol­ish your im­age? Gain some sort of ad­van­tage? Make people think you’re not so bad af­ter all? You can cer­tainly have that last thought about oil com­pa­nies or other or­gan­i­sa­tions, where some people au­to­mat­i­cally think they’re up to no good.”

Men­zies, join­ing a host of arts min­is­ters, cor­po­rate lead­ers, arts com­pany heads and artists (think Grayson Perry in Bri­tain), backs the good­will of big com­pa­nies and donors.

BHP Bil­li­ton, which spon­sors Ban­garra Dance Theatre, says its vol­un­tary com­mu­nity in­vest­ment last year to­talled $US245.8 mil­lion glob­ally — $US7.2 mil­lion was in the arts.

A BHP spokes­woman says: “Our ap­proach to com­mu­nity in­vest­ment is rig­or­ous and drives our com­mit­ment to longer term ac­tiv­i­ties that have the po­ten­tial to deliver tan­gi­ble out­comes and ben­e­fits. The fund­ing is in­vested through our lo­cal op­er­a­tions in our host com­mu­ni­ties and pro­grams are cho­sen based on con­sul­ta­tion with com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers, which en­ables us to fo­cus on the needs, pri­or­i­ties and ex­ist­ing re­sources of each com­mu­nity we op­er­ate in.

“An or­gan­i­sa­tion’s de­ci­sion to re­ceive fund­ing and part­ner with BHP Bil­li­ton is a de­ci­sion for them.”

QGC, a re­source com­pany that spon­sors, Queens­land Bal­let, says: “We have a great work­ing re­la­tion­ship with ev­ery­one in­volved with Queens­land Bal­let and our as­so­ci­a­tion has been 100 per cent pos­i­tive.”

Rio Tinto, which spon­sors Black Swan Theatre Com­pany and Perth Fes­ti­val, among many oth­ers, was ap­proached for com­ment.

But pro­test­ers say that, too of­ten, this in­vest­ment in the arts is noth­ing less than a cal­cu­lated act of brand man­age­ment.

Why else, some ar­gue, would re­source com­pa­nies, plagued by en­vi­ron­men­tal protests, fea- ture so much more promi­nently than other mem­bers of the blue-chip sec­tor?

Lib­er­a­tion Tate’s McDon­nell points to BP’s 2011 an­nounce­ment of a 10m spon­sor­ship deal to fund the Bri­tish Mu­seum, Royal Opera House, Na­tional Por­trait Gallery and Tate Bri­tain not long af­ter the mas­sive Deep­wa­ter Hori­zon oil spill in the Gulf of Mex­ico, for which it was later fined $US4.5bn.

McDon­nell says: “Tate prides it­self on hav­ing a pro­gres­sive, for­ward-think­ing agenda, so it’s re­ally at odds with its pub­lic im­age to be in­ti­mately linked with one of the world’s big­gest pol­luters. The cur­rent spon­sor­ship deal runs out at the end of 2015 and we’re con­fi­dent that Tate could be find­ing al­ter­nate fund­ing sources within that time­frame that wouldn’t do so much dam­age to its rep­u­ta­tion.”

But in a time of global aus­ter­ity, can the arts af­ford to say no? As early as 1985, The New York

Times was say­ing that Mo­bil-spon­sored ex­hi­bi­tions, for ex­am­ple, were sym­bolic of one of the big­gest and most con­tro­ver­sial trends in art mu­se­ums in the past decade: “the shift­ing of fi­nan­cial sup­port … from wealthy pa­trons to cor­po­ra­tions”. The cor­po­rate sec­tor has been an in­valu­able life­line, sup­port­ers ar­gue, step­ping into the vac­uum left by sav­age cuts to govern­ment arts fund­ing in Bri­tain and else­where, but artist de Vi­etri says that the sums do­nated are not as enor­mous as ex­pected: wit­ness Trans­field’s re­ported 6 per cent con­tri­bu­tion (roughly $600,000 of the Bi­en­nale’s $10m budget).

But how to make moral judg­ments about po­ten­tial spon­sors? Says Men­zies: “I think if you looked at al­most any busi­ness, big busi­ness es­pe­cially, you’d find some­thing that some­one didn’t like about them.” In any case, adds Tim Cal­nin, gen­eral man­ager of the Aus­tralian Cham­ber Orches­tra, which is also spon­sored by Trans­field, it would be “un­work­able” for arts com­pa­nies to re­think their spon­sor­ship strate­gies ev­ery time a spon­sor made “a broadly un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sion”.

McDon­nell doesn’t buy the ar­gu­ment “all money is dirty”. “It’s just a con­ve­nient way to col­lapse the dis­cus­sion,” he says. “Moral lines drawn in the past by dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tions ex­cluded tobacco and arms money, for in­stance. So it’s a ques­tion of re­vis­it­ing the ethics of fund­ing to cor­re­spond with chang­ing pub­lic at­ti­tudes, be that at­ti­tudes to­wards oil com­pa­nies and cli­mate change or re­vul­sion over the in­hu­mane treat­ment of asy­lum-seek­ers.”

Pro­test­ers also re­ject the com­mon arts com­pany de­fence ar­tic­u­lated by Cal­nin, who says the “only line you can re­ally draw is be­tween the le­gal and the il­le­gal ... be­yond that it be­comes a ques­tion of in­di­vid­ual ethics, morals and po­lit­i­cal views”. An out­raged Pen­nings re­torts: “What is le­gal de­pends on lo­ca­tion and who is in power.”

And on the ar­gu­ments go: from the sup­pos­edly cor­rupt­ing in­flu­ence of cor­po­rate money on arts pro­gram­ming, caus­ing self-cen­sor­ship (how would an anti-min­ing play fare if sub­mit­ted to the Rio Tinto Black Swan com­mis­sions pro­gram, for ex­am­ple?) to the om­nipresent cor­po­rate brand­ing that in­creas­ingly graces the hal­lowed walls of art. “At the gallery’s fam­ily fun day, it was pretty out there,” says Pen­nings. “It was San­tos cups, San­tos ice cream, San­tos bal­loons …” Cal­nin dis­agrees spon­sor­ship re­sults au­to­mat­i­cally in a sac­ri­fice of in­tegrity. “As arts com­pa­nies, one of the things we take very se­ri­ously is to make sure there’s a fire­wall be­tween the source of funds and con­tent of the pro­gram.”

Aus­tralian ac­tivists say closer scru­tiny is more es­sen­tial than ever given the depths of ties be­tween arts and big busi­ness.

Min­ing com­pany heads sit on arts com­pany boards and foun­da­tions; min­ing money funds ev­ery­thing from prin­ci­pal dancers, or­ches­tral mu­si­cians, state fes­ti­vals and new the­atri­cal com­mis­sions to univer­sity chairs in rock art, the ac­qui­si­tions of new con­tem­po­rary art, re­search into ma­rine bio­di­ver­sity and even Aus­tralian in­die films ( Red Dog, for ex­am­ple, though, as one ob­server has noted, “don’t even think of try­ing to get fund­ing for a film that crit­i­cises the in­dus­try ... com­mon sense re­ally”).

Re­source money — from BHP Bil­li­ton, BP, Chevron, Rio Tinto, ExxonMo­bil, QGC, San­tos, Wood­side and many oth­ers — flows through the cor­ri­dors of ma­jor Aus­tralian arts flag­ships from Ban­garra to Black Swan Theatre to the South Aus­tralian Mu­seum to the Ade­laide Sym­phony Orches­tra. Key play­ers also in­clude the Min­deroo Foun­da­tion, founded in 2001 by Andrew For­rest of Fortes­cue Metals Group, and his wife Ni­cola: among other things, the For­rests do­nated $3m to the Art Gallery of Western Aus­tralia’s To­mor­rowFund and gave $3.7m in

ANGST ABOUT ETH­I­CAL FUND­ING IS RE­MARK­ABLY AB­SENT IN THE US

shares to di­vide be­tween WA’s four ma­jor per­form­ing arts com­pa­nies.

Even as global fi­nan­cial storm clouds gather, this sec­tor re­mains a rich zone of ac­tiv­ity. Last month, Gina Rine­hart’s Han­cock Prospect­ing was hailed as an artis­tic white knight when the com­pany came to the res­cue of the fi­nan­cially strug­gling Sculp­ture by the Sea Cottes­loe. The life­line came in the name of a six-fig­ure spon­sor­ship deal by Han­cock Prospect­ing as prin­ci­pal spon­sors for this year, which in­cludes the new $50,000 Roy Hill Sculp­ture Prize, named af­ter Rine­hart’s con­tro­versy-plagued gi­ant Pil­bara-based iron ore mine. The prize is the most gen­er­ous sculp­ture prize in WA and one of the most gen­er­ous art prizes in the state.

In­ter­est­ingly, this grow­ing angst about eth­i­cal fund­ing is “re­mark­ably ab­sent” in the US, ac­cord­ing to the new di­rec­tor of Aus­tralia’s Na­tional Por­trait Gallery, An­gus Trum­ble, who re­cently ended a long stint as se­nior cu­ra­tor of paint­ings and sculp­ture at Yale Univer­sity’s Cen­tre for Bri­tish Art. As an au­di­ence mem­ber at the Global Giv­ing sym­po­sium in Mel­bourne in Fe­bru­ary, he re­counted watch­ing in amaze­ment as Yale con­ducted a cam­paign to raise $US4.5bn for the Yale En­dow­ment, an ac­tiv­ity that ap­peared to have “ab­so­lutely no process of eth­i­cal over­sight”.

It prompted sym­po­sium speaker Mor­dant to re­veal a sim­i­larly lais­sez-faire at­ti­tude at his old busi­ness school, Whar­ton: “We’ve just closed a $5bn cam­paign and there were cer­tainly no com­mit­tees of that na­ture at all and I did ac­tu­ally ask the dean at one stage about it and the re­sponse was ... that ethics weren’t part of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem. And you can see how in my busi­ness things like En­ron have hap­pened.”

A snapshot of the Amer­i­can arts scene re­veals the pres­ence of big busi­ness in seem­ingly ev­ery cul­tural nook and cranny, from the pres­ence of for­mer Serco chief ex­ec­u­tive Ed­ward Casey on the cor­po­rate fund board of the Kennedy Cen­tre to Hunt Petroleum’s $US10m do­na­tion to the shiny new frack­ing-friendly Perot Mu­seum of Na­ture and Sci­ence, to ExxonMo­bil’s $US4.6m do­na­tion to Amer­i­can arts flag­ships, in­clud­ing a $US750,000 gift to a show at Wash­ing­ton’s Na­tional Gallery of Art also sup­ported by a commercial part­ner, Rus­sian oil gi­ant Ros­neft.

Trum­ble light­heart­edly spec­u­lates that this ap­par­ent na­tional lack of eth­i­cal angst stems from the “rob­ber baron” be­gin­nings of Amer­i­can phi­lan­thropy and the view that such ac­tiv­ity is “by def­i­ni­tion re­demp­tive” (“the awe­some and per­pet­ual good of the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion or the Carnegie En­dow­ment for World Peace more than out­weighs such dam­age as was ever caused by Stan­dard Oil or Pitts­burgh Steel”), but even in the US there is nascent dis­sent: wit­ness spon­sor­ship guide­lines be­ing in­tro­duced fol­low­ing an up­roar over the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion’s spon­sor­ship of a NASCAR race last year, to the rise of a bur­geon­ing coali­tion of anti-frack­ing artists led by Yoko Ono.

So where to for the Aus­tralian arts sec­tor? Pro­posed in­dus­try changes in­clude in­creas­ing the num­ber of artists on boards, to hav­ing bod­ies mod­elled on the Tate ethics com­mit­tee, which au­to­mat­i­cally vets any do­na­tion over 10,000.

Says Mor­dant: “In­creas­ingly, arts in­sti­tu­tions are look­ing to broaden their fund­ing base to match their am­bi­tions. This will nec­es­sar­ily re­quire clear poli­cies from those in­sti­tu­tions’ gov­er­nance struc­tures and those poli­cies should be reg­u­larly re­viewed.”

At least one Aus­tralian arts bene­fac­tor, Sher­man, sees good com­ing from “what seems like dif­fi­cult and con­tentious and neg­a­tive is­sues. Trans­field is no longer sup­port­ing the Bi­en­nale but Luca Bel­giorno-Net­tis (the Bi­en­nale’s for­mer chair­man) could well be.

“He has his own money and if he and the fam­ily are as pas­sion­ate about it as I know they are, I think it could hap­pen. Now wouldn’t that be a happy end­ing?”

Top, a Lib­er­ate Tate per­for­mance at Tate Bri­tain protest­ing against spon­sor BP’s in­volve­ment in the Gulf of Mex­ico spill; left, Fiona Men­zies from Cre­ative Part­ner­ships Aus­tralia

Clock­wise from top, demon­stra­tors

at Tate Bri­tain an­gry at BP and Shell spon­sor­ship;

coal-seam gas pro­test­ers dressed

as zom­bies at Bris­bane’s Gallery

of Mod­ern Art; QAGOMA di­rec­tor Chris Saines; Ben

Pen­nings from Gen­er­a­tion Al­pha protest­ing against San­tos spon­sor­ship

of GOMA

Gen­er­a­tion Al­pha’s Pen­nings, left; Arts Min­is­ter Ge­orge Bran­dis, be­low left; phi­lan­thropist Si­mon Mor­dant, be­low right; Ban­garra, bot­tom, whose 2012 Mon­go­lian tour was spon­sored by Rio Tinto

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.