“The Australian National Aboriginal Art and Culture Gallery can do all the good for Adelaide that Mona did for Hobart – but only if we hold bold in our vision.”
A recent comment piece from Cillín Perera in Adelaide’s independent online newspaper In Daily observes that the SA Government is planning for one institution whereas in Alice Springs “art” and “culture” are still consigned to separate corners.
The Adelaide project (artist’s impression at right) has just received a $60m shot in the arm in the state budget. By contrast, in Alice Springs $50m and $20m, for the art gallery and the cultural centre, respectively, are “on the table” – whatever that means in the world of political spin.
And Mr Perera, described by In Daily as a Harvard-educated Australian expat entrepreneur, philanthropist, art collector and benefactor of the South Australian Museum, is mapping out how the two main players in the ‘art’ and ‘culture’ arenas need to be brought on the same page, something the state’s new Premier, Steven Marshall (pictured) is putting his mind to.
Meanwhile in The Alice the public’s bitter split about the gallery’s positioning is reaching its climax. On Friday both the government’s and the Town Council’s surveys gauging the public’s views on locating the gallery in the Anzac Hill precinct will be made public. The Anzac Hill precinct, taking in Anzac Oval, remains the government’s stubbornly preferred site.
Location – interestingly – doesn’t rate a mention in the Terms of Reference for the National Reference Group announced yesterday. Will the matter of location be any part of the group”s considerations? The government is not responding to enquiries we made yesterday.
Mr Perera says the Liberal victory has been presented as a win for the South Australian Museum (SAM) and a loss for the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA).
“Such thinking does little to acknowledge the deep connections that exist between SAM’s remit of Aboriginal culture and AGSA’s remit of contemporary art, and distracts from an unprecedented opportunity to create the world’s foremost institution for the telling of the complete story, from past to present, of an entire genre of art.”
He says “an enormous breadth” of this work is represented in AGSA’s storerooms, more than 1500 works, while SAM’s “crown jewels of more than 30,000 artefacts” are in a leaky industrial building.
“The only way to display these collections and to tell this story is for AGSA and SAM to work together.”
That is a viewpoint gaining traction in Alice Springs: The art gallery and the cultural centre need to be combined.
Mr Perera puts some solid numbers to what was the government’s fundamental objective for the institutions in Alice Springs before the bickering started: Create something fantastic that would bring big spenders to town and drag it out of its slump.
“The potential flow-on from cultural tourism opportunities is more promising than ever. With worldwide tourist arrivals increasing 4% to 5% annually, the European Commission reports 40% of tourists choose destinations based on cultural offerings,” writes Mr Perera.
“The Australia Council has found cultural visitors spend twice as much money, with international tourists 10 times more likely than locals to visit Aboriginal art or culture displays, and five times more likely to visit Aboriginal sites or communities.
“This increased exposure also feeds the collector market, with a recent $2.1m Emily Kame Kngwarreye [the late artist from Utopia, north-east of Alice Springs] result and a dedicated Sothebys auction in London which this year forwent the customary Australian preview, deeming European interest sufficient.”
UDATE 10.47am 6 September 2018:
In our enquiries to the government, following up on their announcement of the National Reference Group for the gallery, we asked these questions:
“Members will be remunerated and all costs associated with travel will be covered. Remuneration will be in line with the Assembly Members and Statutory Officers (remuneration and Other Entitlements) Act approved classification.
“The Reference Group’s role will be to provide expert advice and guidance on the curatorial, cultural and governance aspects of this project.
“An extensive local consultation program has just been finalised with the local Alice Springs community, in reference to the preferred site for the Gallery. Results of this consultation program will be released very soon.
“We promised this Gallery and we will deliver an exciting and important institution that will celebrate culture, attract visitors, and create new business and jobs in Alice Springs.”
Alice Springs News Online understands the results of the consultation will be released tomorrow.