Professional “art bubble”: Who is in it and what do they do?


In a tongue-in-cheek article written for The New Zealand Herald, Janet McAllister recounts her trip to Sydney for the re-launch of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. Though mostly light-hearted, she also comments on the dubious relationship between art and money.

The new wing of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Click here to read the full article, published by the New Zealand Herald on 5 June 2012.

Auckland-based arts journalist Janet McAllister, who had come to see Sydney as a “big sister-city” for the cultural scene, was surprised by the international jet setters who descended upon the Australian capital for the reopening of the Museum of Contemporary Art AustraliaShe describes them as “a genuinely charming pack of art bubble denizens – mostly journalists but also collectors, curators, artists and publicists – who hop from biennales to residencies to festivals to art fairs”.

The focus of the article is the aforementioned “art bubble,” an insular group of cultural elite who influence the direction of contemporary art today. And her estimation of these professionals is not high. She comments that art events are merely opportunities for “catching up on insider gossip”. Perhaps most astutely, McAllister notes that there is not an “art bubble” so much as “art bubbles”.

Sometimes, the wisdom of the art bubble is divided between those with money, and those with jobs. We international journalists were taken to a privately owned exhibition gallery, the White Rabbit, “Transformation” by Xie Kun at the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney, which specialises in contemporary Chinese art. The others didn’t think much of it, partly because they’d never heard of any of the artists exhibited.

McAllister goes on to question how art professionals like White Rabbit Gallery owner Judith Neilson, who have both art brand clout and massive amounts of money, can determine on their own what is shown to the general public, and worries that the confluence of art and money may be more pernicious than originally thought. She comments,

Money has more influence than artistic genius over what’s in the dealer galleries and – more problematically, if usually less directly – what we see in our public galleries.

In Asia, where the distinction between public and private exhibition spaces continues to blur, this may prove to be one of the most exigent issues to emerge from contemporary art dialogue in the region.


Related Topics: collectors, curatorial practice, art investment, art in Sydney

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