ICYMI: A wrap of this week’s arts news

Visual Arts Writer

Parliamentary reports, a new performing arts centre, program announcements, touring celebrations and more.
ICYMI: A wrap of this week’s arts news

Pipilotti Rist's public artwork, Sparkling Pond, Bold-Coloured Groove & Tender Fire (Please walk in and let the colours caress you), 2018, unveiled 7 December at Central Park, Sydney. Courtesy the artist and Barbara Flynn Art Consultant.

Report published on inauthentic Indigenous style art

A Parliamentary inquiry into the proliferation of inauthentic ‘Indigenous style’ art and craft has heard that up to 80% of all souvenirs sold in Australia supposedly representing First Nations’ cultures are fake.


The Indigenous Affairs Committee released its report on 20 December, making eight recommendations for reducing the prevalence of imitation First Nations art and craft. Those recommendations include:

  • That the Productivity Commission conducts a comprehensive structural analysis of First Nations art and craft markets so that the economic opportunities for First Nations communities can be determined;
  • The Indigenous Art Code be properly funded to foster responsible retail and supply practices;
  • First Nations art centres be better resourced for capacity building; and
  • That effective information guides and standards be developed to inform customers and businesses about authenticity.

Committee Chair, Ann Sudmalis said: ‘The misappropriation of First Nations cultures in this way is unacceptable and cannot continue unchecked.’

To read the full report, visit the committee’s website.


The 40th anniversary production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Evita has had its Melbourne season extended until 3 March due to popular demand. It was originally due to close on 24 February.

Starring Tina Arena in the titular role, the production completed a sold out season at the Sydney Opera House and similarly in Melbourne has been celebrated by audiences and critics alike, with ArtsHub’s Reuben Liversidge calling it ‘a true gift from the theatre gods’.

Tickets for the new performances are on sale now at https://evitathemusical.com.au/.

Bega regional art gallery funding application rejected by NSW government

The Bega Valley Regional Gallery and council were informed last week that they were not successful in their application for $3.4 million in the second round of NSW Regional Cultural Fund grants.

The Bega District News reported that the gallery had been told during round one its idea had merit and was invited to submit a more detailed application.

Director of Bega Valley Regional Gallery, Iain Dawson, told the local news source that the rejection was particularly grating as the letter was sent on Friday 21 December when most media and stakeholders were shutting down for the Christmas break.

‘With three decades of growth and success, and as the only public art gallery south of Nowra, and east of Albury, we believed the Bega Valley Regional Gallery to be a perfect candidate to take advantage of this once in a generation funding opportunity,’ Dawson said.

The Gallery is said to add $1.3 million to the local economy.

The Regional Cultural Fund is investing $100 million over two years to strengthen NSW culture and infrastructure.


St Kilda Festival returns for the 39th year on Sunday 10 February 2019, with over 60 acts performing throughout the day, across seven stages spread out along the foreshore and around St Kilda. Crowds are expected to surpass over 400,000 on the day – with last year’s festival setting a new record of 460,000.

Headlining artists at the Main Stage at St Kilda Festival 2019 are:

  • The Northern Folk (2018 winners of the New Music Stage Competition)
  • Regurgitator’s Pogogo Kids Show
  • Mojo Juju
  • Troy Cassar-Daley
  • Saskwatch
  • The Preatures
  • The Cat Empire
  • DZ Deathrays

This year, St Kilda Festival has over 50% female fronted/solo acts, and also has one or more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander act on all five main stages. Visit https://www.stkildafestival.com.au/ for program details.

Hyde Park Barracks Renewal

Sydney Living Museums announced a major renewal of Hyde Park Barracks Museum this week (10 January) that will see the UNESCO World Heritage-listed site transformed with a rich, immersive visitor experience like no other in Australia.

'The reinterpretation of such an iconic heritage site marks the site’s 200th anniversary and promises a bold, new look at the complex, challenging and inspiring stories of Sydney’s early history,' said the Hon. Don Harwin MLC, Minister for the Arts.

Sydney Living Museums is working with internationally-acclaimed exhibit and media design specialists Local Projects to develop a realistic exhibition experience, employing contemporary interpretative techniques, immersive installations and unconventional interactive elements. 

'This $18 million renewal project reflects the best in contemporary museum design. It will bring the personal stories to life in a truly authentic, emotional way that is relevant to people’s lives today, said Mark Goggin, Executive Director, Sydney Living Museums.

The renewal project centres on telling a significant part of Australia’s convict story, its impact on First Nations people, and the site’s early contribution to immigration.

'The completely revitalised Hyde Park Barracks Museum experience will be an anchor for what the government is planning for the historic Macquarie Street East Precinct on the eastern fringe of the CBD, offering an even more vibrant place for locals and tourists to enjoy,' Harwin added.

Hyde Park Barracks Museum will be closed to the public from 29 January and will reopen in late 2019.

Minister Harwin and SSO funding fiasco

Shortly before the Christmas “shutdown” (20 December) a second round of Create NSW funding for arts bodies was criticised as being overly delayed – the lack of “sign off” on Annual Program Funding leaving some organisations in the dark with regard to 2019 programming.

Read: Funding delays may force NSW organisations to close

It followed a similar delay experienced in September 2018, when Arts Minister Don Harwin controversially siphoned off and redirected funds at his own discretion. An independent panel originally recommended 17 projects share a total budget of $660,000. Only six projects were subsequently funded to a value of $256,029, described as one of the worst funding rounds in Australian history.

Create NSW said it does not have set dates for announcements, but noted that applicants were likely to be advised in early January.

In related news, Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has handed back a million-dollar, one-off grant it received from the NSW Government in 2018, part of which comprised the funding redirected by the Arts Minister.

A Sydney Symphony Orchestra spokesperson told ArtsHub: 'In February 2018, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra submitted a business funding case to the NSW Government for an ICC Acoustic Treatment Capital Works Grant, to assist with the building and installing of acoustic equipment for planned Sydney Symphony Orchestra performances at the ICC Sydney between 2019 and 2022.

'After the grant application was finalised and funded, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra took a new opportunity to partner with the City of Sydney and relocate to the Sydney Town Hall for this period.

'As the ICC Acoustic Treatment Capital Works Grant was specific to acoustic treatments for the ICC Sydney, and consistent with the terms of the grant, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra refunded the $1M in full to Create NSW in October 2018.'

Expert speaks out on Protection of Moveable Cultural Heritage Regulations

In a newsletter circulated 20 December by respected curator, gallerist and author on Indigenous art, Adrian Newstead OAM, he reflected upon the changes to the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Regulations (published December 2018).

Newstead writes: ‘In July 2015, it was announced that the Hon. George Brandis, then Federal Minister for the Arts had appointed Mr Shane Simpson AM to undertake a review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act (PMCH Act) and its regulations. Exactly one week prior to the due date, 30 September 2015, the Hon Mitch Fifield replaced Brandis as the Minister.

‘Though Simpson consulted widely in formulating his recommendations and submitted the report on schedule, Fifield sat on it for more than three years, and during that period, Simpson’s recommendations languished – they were not canvassed publicly for industry scrutiny or comment.'

Newstead concludes that the revised Regulations ‘represent a significant lost opportunity’. He explained that under the previous report, artworks that were valued at $10,000 or more and were created over 20 years ago required export permits.

‘Clearly, the law was out of touch with the rapid growth of the Aboriginal arts industry which saw sales of Aboriginal art exceed AUD $45 million by the mid 1990s,' writes Newstead. ‘The single biggest defect of the new regulations is that Simpson chose to increase the age limit from 20 to 30 years and the value threshold from $10,000 to $100,000 … He therefore instituted the same defect in the new regulations that were inherent in the old. He set a time period that will, over time, become less and less relevant and more and more outdated.

‘In spite of the above, there is much to be pleased about in the clarity afforded by updating the act,’ concluded Newstead.

You can read the full Regulations by visiting www.legislation.gov.au/Details/F2018L01710


In December, Brisbane-based contemporary circus company Circa performed in its 40th country to date, affirming its place as the most-toured performing arts company in Australia.

Friday 28 December saw Circa chalk up the milestone 40th new stamp in its passport, when it performed Humans at Slovenia’s Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana.

‘The sheer scale of Circa’s touring is unexpected – 40 countries is a massive achievement. I am most proud of how our teams go out every night in vastly different locations, venues and circumstances and put on the best possible show each and every time,’ said Circa artistic director and CEO, Yaron Lifschitz.

Such is the prolific touring schedule that in 2018 alone, Circa has travelled more than 3,616,121 km – far enough to have gone to the moon and back four times – or around the globe 10 times. The company has also put on 333 international performances in 2018 – presenting 14 different shows across 11 countries.

And Circa shows no sign of slowing down in 2019. Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus will tour Australia, with seasons announced for the Arts Centre, Melbourne and the Sydney Opera House. Circa’s Peepshow will also tour nationally.

Other ventures include a new collaboration with Opera Queensland - Orpheus and Eurydice in Brisbane; touring the east coast of Australia with English Baroque, the third collaboration with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and confirmed tours of Germany, New Zealand, France, Spain, the US, and Japan.

Permanent Pipilotti Rist artwork for Sydney

The iconic Swiss video installation artist – whose popular major survey exhibition was presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2017 – has created an engaging suite of floor projections and a vivid wall of coloured glass for the publicly accessible, open-air undercroft space of 5 Park Lane, one of the residential towers at the new city precinct Central Park in Sydney (pictured top).

From the project’s outset, Rist said she wanted to create ‘a visual and sensory experience … that holds a place in the collective memory for people passing through the space and living around it.’

From sunset to midnight every night, gently animated video scenes are projected onto the floor of the undercroft space in three locations. The largest of them appears on the ground like an ‘urban electronic bonfire’, as Rist puts it. The smallest orb of moving coloured light sits at the far end of the space, like a spotlight on a stage that transforms viewers into actors. The slowly wobbling outlines of the projections invite us to interact, ‘to take showers in the coloured light’.

Barbara Flynn said of the project: ‘Pipilotti and I started working on the idea of an artwork for the Sydney public domain six years ago, in 2012. That early effort failed. As with many things, failure led to something much better at Central Park.’

Titled Sparkling Pond, Bold-Coloured Groove & Tender Fire (Please walk in and let the colours caress you), 2018, it was unveiled 7 December and is Rist’s first permanent outdoor video work in Australia.

New report valuing museum collections puts them at $6.5 Billion

The Council of Australasian Museum Directors has developed a  New National Framework for Valuing Collections, and which was tabled publicly 20 December 2018.

The development of the framework was initiated by the Council of Australasian Museum Directors (CAMD). It means that Australia and New Zealand’s major natural history and culture museums, and social history museums, are now able to more accurately and consistently value their collections following the establishment of a new national valuation and reporting framework.

The Council members who actively participated in the project now believe the value of the precious collections held in the major museums exceeds AUD $6.5 billion (note: CAMD represents museums, not art galleries, for the purposes of the valuation study and framework).

According to Kim McKay, CAMD project sponsor & CEO of the Australian Museum in Sydney, the framework establishes a best practice methodology for the valuation of collections at fair value.

‘Before this body of work was undertaken, each State and Territory employed different valuation methodologies which led to inconsistencies, a lack of comparability and an inability for our region to have confidence in the valuations ascribed,' McKay said.

‘Now we have a robust framework that has been welcomed by a range of professional bodies including the Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand, CPA Australia, and the Heads of Treasuries Accounting and Reporting Advisory Committee.’

The new framework acknowledges that museums have a unique role in the management, development and safeguarding of collections for the benefit of future generations and that the intent of museums is to ensure that collection assets are preserved indefinitely. It also notes that museums are in the process of digitally documenting and cataloguing all objects within their custody.

To read the paper visit Australian framework for the valuation of public sector collections for general purpose financial reporting (1 November, 2018)

Lease yet to be signed for National Art School

In its annual report tabled last week (DATE), NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford said the failure to finalise the National Art School’s occupancy arrangement 'risked uncertainty' for the campus.

Shadow Minister for the Arts, Walt Secord, called on the state government to end the uncertainty.

A spokesman for NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin told the SMH that the National Art School had been invited to submit an application for a long-term lease for the Darlinghurst Gaol site by January, and added that he had given his personal commitment that NAS would remain at its inner-city campus. However, a long-term lease, expected by the middle of this year, has yet to be announced.

'The state will then assess the application, consistent with the probity plan. This process is consistent with other processes used to provide long-term arts leases, such as Carriageworks. The NSW government remains committed to the NAS and is currently undertaking a business case to revitalise the site and safeguard the school’s long-term future,’ the Minister’s spokesperson told the Herald.

Boyds’ Shed welcomes visitors again

Last week (4 January), news was received that the Tweed Regional Museum has re-opened the iconic Boyds’ Shed, built by the Boyd family on the banks of Terranora Inlet in 1906. Museum staff have spent six months refurbishing the shed and interpreting its rich history, which is now once again on display for a new generation of visitors to enjoy. 

Boyd ancestors were among the earliest cedar-cutters on the Tweed in the 1840s. The shed was the base for the family’s commercial fishing operations from the 1920s to the 1960s and also became well known as a place for social gatherings. The heritage-listed building is the last remaining fishing shed in the area.

Museum Director Judy Kean said the shed had lost none of its atmosphere and charm.

New Macfarlane Commission supports five artists

The Macfarlane Commissions are a major initiative of The Macfarlane Fund, a philanthropic fund established in 2017 to honour the life of respected Melbourne businessman Donald (Don) Macfarlane, who throughout his life took immense pleasure in the arts. The Fund’s primary focus is to offer financial support across the career span of artists.  

The first in a new biennial series of commissions exhibitions supported by The Macfarlane Fund were unveiled 15 December; The Theatre is Lying features five ambitious new works from artists Anna Breckon & Nat Randall, Sol Calero, Consuelo Cavaniglia, Matthew Griffin and Daniel Jenatsch, who share an interest in the construction of alternative narratives and worlds through illusionary, illusory, cinematic and theatrical devices.

Curated by ACCA Artistic Director Max Delany and Senior Curator Annika Kristensen, The Theatre is Lying delves into the world of conspiracy theories, red herrings, smoke and mirrors, espionage and spy dramas, and the representations and misrepresentations of cinema and media.

The inaugural Macfarlane Commissions can be viewed at ACCA until 24 March 2019.

Art acquisitions a coup for Port Phillip

The City of Port Phillip has unveiled a remarkable suite of acquisitions complied over the past three years by Port Phillip Council’s Art Acquisition Reference Committee.

The acquisitions include a diminutive but significant pencil drawing by Albert Tucker; works by Martin Kantor, who captured identities in Australian culture in the 1980s and ‘90s; Emma Hamilton’s photographic diagrams which calculate the sun’s position in the Norwegian landscape, and abstract etchings by Alan Mitelman.

The selected works were chosen to support local artists who displayed an innovative approach to their practice. The Port Phillip City Collection Recent Acquisitions 2016-2018 exhibition can be viewed at the Carlisle Street Arts Space, St Kilda Town Hall, until 22 January 2019.


The Cairns Performing Arts Centre (CPAC) officially opened on 15 December, marking a rich new beginning in the cultural life of Far North Queensland. CPAC sits at the heart of a Council-led initiative entitled The Precinct, consisting of the performing arts centre, tropical parkland and ampitheatre. The new building celebrates its enviable tropical location and acknowledges the importance that cultural facilities play in the life of a community.

CPAC replaces the former Cairns Civic Theatre providing a greatly enhanced audience experience and a state-of-the-art facility that will support local performers.

The $71 million project took about 2 years to construct.

The main components of CPAC are:

  • A 941 seat main auditorium incorporating balcony seating
  • A significantly increased foyer, bar area and public amenities
  • A studio theatre that can double as a 400-seat performance space, rehearsal and warm-up area
  • Improved back of house facilities, including more change rooms and toilets, a cross over, higher and covered loading bay
  • A deeper stage, more spacious wings, higher proscenium arch, higher fly tower and more fly lines
  • A much larger orchestra pit and providing better piano storage
  • Improve acoustics

For further information, or to book tickets for CPAC shows, please visit the CPAC website.

200% funding increase for Indigenous Arts in Prisons

The Torch’s Indigenous Arts in Prisons and Community Program marks its 10th anniversary with Confined 10 – its largest exhibition to date, featuring over 190 artists. This year, the Victorian government committed $2.206 million dollars to the program for the next three years – close to a 200% funding increase for the not-for-profit organisation.

The Torch program is growing in size and scope each year. Its success and grass roots no nonsense approach based on Indigenous knowledge and support systems, attracted the increase in funding. This enables The Torch to sustain and develop the program and to keep achieving positive outcomes in a complex and difficult area of Indigenous disadvantage,’ said The Torch CEO, Kent Morris.

Set within the context of the Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement, the Indigenous Arts in Prison and Community Program focuses on the role that culture and cultural identity plays in the rehabilitation of Indigenous community members who are incarcerated.  It aims to support Indigenous offenders and ex-offenders with an opportunity to connect with the community and to promote the practice of culture in rehabilitation. 

The exhibitions provide income to the artists with 100% of the sales going to the artist. Confined 10 is showing at the Carlisle Street Arts Space, St Kilda Town Hall, from 30 January – 27 February 2019. 

ICYMI … last week

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