Thursday, October 26, 2006

Italian curators in Melbourne

After having spent almost two months in Melbourne we consider the truly distinctive element of the city, and a source of pride, its strong presence of artist-run spaces and artist-run initiatives. We have been very surprised how artists have brainstormed projects that they would like to see realized, have found financial and other resources, have created artworks, curated shows, and even written critical texts. We spent lot of time visiting about twenty, often hard to uncover, artist-run spaces, such as Kings ARI, Clubsprojects, Conical, Westspace and Ocularlab. We also met more than 50 artists and visited their studios (either the younger generation such as Paul Knight, Matthew Griffin and Nick Mangan or to the previous one including Jon Campbell, Marco Fusinato and Daniel von Sturmer). Everyone was really generous, sharing lots of information: curators in Melbourne and Sydney spent hours with us speaking about the contemporary art scene and its background. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art ACCA hosted a curatorial lab for us: over 4 days we met and saw the works of David Rosetzky, Stuart Ringholt, Gabrielle de Vietri, Christian Capurro, Alex Pittindrigh, Laresa Kosloff, Richard Giblett, Andrew McQualter, Kathy Temin, Domenico de Clario and Glen Walls among the others.

Over the six weeks at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces as part of the visiting curator program there, we visited the studios of the artists who were in residence. The level is qualitatively high and all the artists working there show interesting energies, for example Lily Hibberd’s paintings and her publication projects such as unMagazine, the installations of Alicia Frankovich, the ones by Simon Horsburgh or Mira Gojak – both re-using everyday objects and giving them a new life - and also the works by Kiron Robinson, Michelle Ussher, Nick Selenitsch and Rob McHaffie. The other remarkable artists we met at Gertrude are Bianca Hester, Viv Miller, Christian Thompson, Alex Martinis Roe, Kate Fulton, Katherine Huang, Natalya Hughes and Starlie Geikie.

In our residential Studio 18 at Gertrude and in the project space Studio 12 we presented a selection of works by more than 35 Italian artists such as Marzia Migliora, Diego Perrone, Patrick Tuttofuoco, Domenico Mangano, goldiechiari, Alice Guareschi among others. We also hosted discussions and a floor talk on the Milan art scene. We were also very happy to welcome exhibition visitors to the studio and to exchange information about Italy.

We got the feeling that Australians feel far away from the European and American art scene (in terms of geographical distance). What we found bizarre is that so far there’s not been so much connections with the closer Asian context. The structure of the art scene is younger in comparison to the European one: for example there are not so many curators – especially independent curators – and the masters or schools in curatorial studies are something quite new. That’s probably one of the reasons why there are so many artist-run spaces. Surely what’s happening in Melbourne could never happen in a city like Milan: the real estate costs in Melbourne makes affordable to artists to have their own space and to promote their work and the work of other artists. Also the remarkable long-term support from the City Council, the Region and the Government to artist-run initiatives make their life easier.

We noticed this feeling of “far away” also when visiting commercial galleries in Melbourne such as Uplands, Neon Parc, Sutton Gallery and Anna Schwartz. Surprisingly the influential galleries are not so many and while we are used to see the work of foreign artists in Italian galleries, Australian galleries work mainly with local artists. This attitude belongs to a more general and wide approach that aims to promote Australian culture both locally and internationally. Good examples are the emphasis on the Venice Biennale Pavilion - considered the best foreign showcase for local art and deeply supported by Australian Council for the Art, as well by private sponsors – and the amount of well payed scholarships, residencies and prizes for artists for living or studying over seas for at least a year.
Chiara Agnello and Roberta Tenconi were in Australia between July and September 2006 as part of the project M.M.M. (Milano.Melbourne.Milano), a cultural exchange program between Italy and Australia supported by Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, MUMA Monash University, Comune di Milano – Relazioni Internazionali, ACACIA Associazione Amici Arte Contemporanea, C/O careof.


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