Wednesday February 21, 2024


May 11 2016

Could anyone please – please – explain why we the Australian people are contributing $75,500 towards an exhibition celebrating the life of the late lamented Amy Winehouse…in London? 

It’s part of this thing called Catalyst (no, not the ABC’s excellent pop science show, but the Mitch Fifield really not excellent attempt to do something slightly less risible than George Brandis’s idea of arts patronage).

The citation for the grant – to the Jewish Museum of Australia – reads “To support the exhibition ‘Amy Winehouse: a family portrait’, a personal and intimate exhibition curated by the Jewish Museum in London.”

Again, I ask – please, please can anyone explain why? A shorter version of the question would be: WTF? 

Meanwhile, the Australian Ballet – an unmatched magnet for public funding – has scored $1,000,000 “To support over two years the redevelopment of The Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre to upgrade facilities for dancers, musicians, medical staff treating artists and provide community facilities for recording/broadcast, education and engagement.” 

And in addition, the AB has slurped up another $200,000 “To support the 2016 London tour in which it will present performances of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake and Alexei Ratmansky's Cinderella, at the London Coliseum.” In the year declared by Malcolm Turnbull to be one of exciting innovation it’s worth noting that the Murphy Swan Lake (pictured here) is now 14 years old, as is the Cinderella.


The remaining grants range from predictable to interesting to inscrutable (par for the course in arts funding) and can be seen in full on the Ministry for the Arts website, but why has this process been carried out by the Ministry and not by the Australia Council? What was, is, will be the point – other than an increase in suspicion, sycophancy and nasty surprises – when this kind of ladling out of public money was handled adequately and as fairly as is honestly possible by the OzCo in the first place.

The attitude of the Abbott-Turnbull government to the arts sector is breathtakingly awful, destructive and unintelligent. It puts in peril the future of our children, our culture and our health. Coupled with the recent decision of Fairfax management to further cripple arts coverage in its publications in favour of social snaps, and we are looking at the country’s most innovative and creative industry (hello, Malcolm) being driven to the wall at a time when it is more highly regarded at home and overseas than at any time in modern history.

To paraphrase the prime minister, this is a shite time to be an Australian – and we get to do something about it on July 2.



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