Things That Didn’t Happen: 2006 in Review

Art Life Dec 13, 2006 No Comments

January

Continuing a long tradition at the Sydney Festival of featuring art that’s accessible to the general public – and involves bright lights, loud noises and is sited in a park – 2006’s Sydney Festival Art Project is by the Austrian video artist Karl Scheithaus. The artist collected together hours of family archival footage, much of it featuring the faces of his mother and father openly weeping at their son’s career choices, other images of his sister being brutally ignored at Christmas and yet more out of focus shots of hands and ears, all of which are projected by concealed video projectors on to garbage bins, lamp posts and inert winos in Sydney’s Regent Park. Scheithaus says the work “inverts the social apparatus of looking from the private to the public, allowing the casual passerby to interact with persons caught in the act of sorrow.” The work is projected after dark, from 7pm to around 12 midnight, or until security guards chase people from the vicinity. [Sponsored by Radio Rentals].

Super successful Glossy Art Magazine launches its controversial Sex In Art issue. With a titillating series of cover the issue proves to be something of a disappointment with a lot of talk about sex, but very little in the way of actually putting out. In a special sealed section, academic gadfly Fred Trellis writes rapturously on the work of “undiscovered” Sydney artist Salo Viczxnecz and her penchant for using cunnilingus in her videos as a metaphor for commodity festishisation.

At Established Art Magazine, the first in a seven part series on performance art in Vietnam and Laos is published. Written by academic/housewife Hedley Werthit, the article kicks off with some brave attempts at writerly scene setting [“the artist has big, soft hands…”] but soon becomes a blizzard of art speak and tedious footnotes, accompanied by glossy images that are good to look at for a few minutes before you flip the page to look at the ads.

February

Harvard O’Brien finally leaves the Astrid Weller Gallery to join Galleries Feldspar after a dispute concerning his November 05 exhibition. According to inside sources at Weller, O’Brien objects to the comma inserted into his invitation that altered New Works on Paper to New, Works on Paper.

The new artist run initiative Sport Space opens above a Mick Simmons store run by a committee of seven artists and two curators including Salo Viczxnecz, John Mallett and Joanna Fairley-Ghirly. Their aim, they state on their blog, is to “create a venue for emerging artists to exhibit work not usually seen in other galleries including abstract painting, sculpture, installation, digital photography, performance art and video.” Sport Space debuts in February with Director’s Group Show, a group show featuring work by Sport Space committee members including abstract painting, sculpture, installation, digital photography, performance art and video works. Numbers swell to double figures on the second weekend of the show after it scores a mention in Gail Reporter’s column in the SMT’s Hetro Life section.

Well known art world philanthropist and pioneering collector Dr. Richard Love buys Bite Me, a DVD by Viczxnecz for $200.

Cheeky anonymous Sydney art blog The Art Shite is outed as the work of Gordon “Bosco” Tabs, Daniel “Undiscovered” Smith and Michael “Spiv” Norman in the Sydney Morning Telegraph’s Out of Touch column. Doubts are raised about this claim however when Art Shite writers are confirmed for a ‘personal appearance’ at the Adelaide Festival of The Tedious Arts and arrive in a bus, wearing white robes and number at least 20 individuals. Further confusion reigns when the “group” – instead of delivering a lecture on the “crisis in contemporary art criticism” – instead performs songs by The Polyphonic Spree.

Emerging video artist IQ Lowly, sculptor Terry von Sturm?ndrang and the very difficult-late-middle-aged-woman/potter/conceptual artist Helena R. Hankart are announced as the trio to represent Australia at the Moose Jaw Quadrennial of Contemporary Art.

Slightly askew toupee-wearing arts writer Gary Thyme reveals in Blimey.com that Lowly and Sturm?ndrang were chosen by curator Betty Bettram because they were “good fucks” and had consequently been favoured way beyond apparent talent and worthiness. Hankart meanwhile was included – it is claimed – because Bettram once had a thing with Hankart’s Sydney dealer Stephen Hairy, or possibly owned work by Hankart [a photograph of a ball of wool made from Hankart’s hair exhibited in the late 70s], but either way, what an outrage! The deafening silence in the art world following Thyme’s revelations only seems to underscore their plausibility.

John Cuntish-Browne’s 2×5 meter long Seven Circles of Hell – first exhibited in Sydney in 1966 – is sold for just $100,000 by Botherby’s to noted Paddington art spruiker Barry Hastings. Other lesser works by Cuntish-Browne are snapped up by a bevy of anonymous buyers.

March

Painter, sometime poet and all round bon viveur John Cuntish-Browne is admitted to hospital for treatment for advanced bloat. Plans for a retrospective of his work at Paddington’s Barry Hastings’s Gallery of Secondary Market Leftovers picks up pace with the years “1940-2006” hastily stuck on the bio page of the upcoming show’s glossy catalogue.

The Victorian art world is plunged into chaos when intrepid Blimey.com reporter Gary Thyme reveals that Harry Toff – Head of Painting at the Victorian Gallery of National Art – once worked in a commercial gallery and now, as a senior member of staff at VGNA, is punting on deals to his ex-boyfriend’s gallery, buying works of dubious provenance, or just for massively inflated prices, and he probably slept with Charles Sampson, the cravat-wearing VGNA director as well.

Despite promises to investigate, Toff leaves with his superannuation, a gold watch and enough cash and contacts to start his own “consultancy”. The deafening silence in the art world following Thyme’s revelations only seems to underscore their plausibility.

Sydney Morning Telegraph’s art critic Jack McDuff writes a glowing review of the exhibition Me Frocks! – a collection of stage gowns worn by pop diva Epernay staged at Sydney’s Powerhaus Museum. McDuff asks readers to consider the gowns as valid art objects in their own right. McDuff declines to mention that his newspaper is the exhibition’s media partner. Letters to the editor complaining about McDuff’s conflict of interest are not published.

The inaugural Gosford Art 06 opens at Erina Fair with galleries, art workshops and individual artists operating stalls. With affordable art available to all comers, the show is savaged by the art critic for The Peninsula News Anne Roxley as a “waste of time and money” and said to feature “work with as much aesthetic appeal as a chimpanzee printed on a bath towel.” Despite the critical dismissal, Gosford Art 06 is a massive commercial success with plans for another in 07, expanded exhibitions halls and a special “collectors’ area” where you will be able to purchase art, sip coffee and admire novelty chimp-related Manchester.

April

John Cuntish-Browne [1940-2006] dies. Mourners at his funeral include his long time dealer Lloyd Caruthers, his fifth and final wife Barbara Dawson-Jones, children from former marriages Jasper and Emily Cuntish-Browne and former friend and long time rival Carl Withers. The Sydney Morning Telegraph publishes an eighth-of-a-page obituary in its glossy Dining Style liftout.

Artist-run initiative Sport Space collaborates with fellow ARIs Gallery Vague and Lens Cap New Media for the inaugural Tri-Ars Festival, a Saturday afternoon get together where punters are invited to wander between the galleries, look at art, drink wine and eat hot dogs. The day is considered a qualified success after the directors of Lens Cap lose the keys to their gallery front door. Undeterred, the crowds assemble at the nearby Duke of York Hotel to continue drinking until they are sick. Later in the week, the residual good vibes of the day are shattered when Sport Space directors John Mallett and Salo Viczxnecz are the only artists from the event to score a mention in Gail Reporter’s art column in the SMT’s Hetro Life section.

A letter writing and email campaign to save the SMT’s Hetro Life’s slim art coverage is met with hostility and outrage by beleaguered HL editor Ken Jobswerth who claims reports of the end of their extended coverage are an outright fabrication. The next issue however reveals the reports were true. Cheeky Sydney art bloggers The Art Shite write to Jobswerth asking for an apology but are met with silence.

Meanwhile, at Nues Corp. flagship The Austrian’s resident art critic Bartholomew “Bart” Bombastic declares Me Frocks! at the Powerhaus Museum to be “the greatest show of the year, possibly ever, providing a sure model for other curators to follow”. Bombastic also claims that Epernay’s breasts are “pneumatic wonders of architectural construction upon which one might rest one’s head, or perhaps a pearl necklace.”

At Paddington’s Gallery of Secondary Market Leftovers, the posthumous exhibition of work by John Cuntish-Browne sells major paintings Seven Circles of Hell and Poor Bugger Me for $675,000 and $453,750 respectively. The show sells out on the opening night.

May

Barney Rubble, head of historical curiosity The Notional Art School, uses his access to Sydney’s A-List glitzerati to gather support to stop State Government plans to turn the school’s buildings into a car park and the deportation of teaching staff to Nauru. A tireless campaigner, Rubble enlists the support of brain addled Margaret Oldlady – who suggests male students wear ties to compulsory drawing classes – Carl Withers – a senior artist who once had lunch across the road from the school – and a list of signatories to a petition featuring many lawyers, architects and art critic Jack McDuff, who also just happens to work at the school. The campaign reaches the pages of The Sydney Morning Telegraph under the bemused byline of Lisa Gullible.

Following the success of his three galleries – the JCB Gallery flagship space on Paddington’s Elizabeth Street, a separate works on paper gallery on Queen Street and a secondary market dealership on Oxford Street – Jasper Cuntish Browne launches the Annex Annex, a gallery devoted to exhibitions of his other three galleries GST paperwork.

The Sydney Museum of Art Gallery’s annual Solstice exhibition opens to a lukewarm response. The show – an annual showcase of mid-career artists with middling work done in a so-so manner curated by Ricky Tintin – comes with an enormous catalogue that many admire, flip through but do not actually read. Bart Bombastic at The Austrian dismisses the show out of hand, preferring instead the work 20-something performance artist Fiona Italianate, describing the all-nude performance as “ejaculatory”. The opening of the show, meanwhile, is a massive success with many artists, friends and museum staff admitted to hospital due to alcohol poisoning. One artist – emerging sculptor Tom Chrysalis – manages to stay upright for hours, drinking mechanically, his eyes just eerie sliver pools of uncomprehending ennui.

After more than six months cultivating inside contacts and working undercover, Blimey.com’s Justin Thyme reveals that Victorian Gallery of National Art and The Art Gallery of Contemporary Art in Sydney are working in concert to distort the art market by using prejudicial purchasing practices including buying works by members of staff for their permanent collections while trustees and board members are exposed as blood thirsty Satanists who kill children for fun. Thyme manages to actually shoot a photograph of the fiends in action, a hooded figure seen centre frame with a raised hand holding a blood dripping scimitar, his face distorted with murderous glee. The deafening silence in the art world following Thyme’s revelations only seems to underscore their plausibility. Thyme resigns from Blimey.com in disgust.

Well known art world philanthropist and pioneering collector Dr. Richard Love sells his DVD Bite Me by Salo Viczxnecz – bought for $200 – to an art dealer for $5,000.

June

Tensions simmering since the “disastrous” Tri-Ars Festival lead to the departure from ARI Sports Space directorial collective of rising art star Salo Viczxnecz. Rumours persist that Viczxnecz is being courted by the Galleries Feldspar although the artist denies any connection saying she is leaving to get back to her “practice”. Meanwhile fellow Sport Space director John Mallett continues to work on his upcoming My Little P-Ness performance video show while being tipped by Glossy Art Magazine as “next year’s next big thing.”

Jack McDuff returns to his weekly column at The Sydney Morning Telegraph after six weeks overseas touring galleries in Canada, Newfoundland and Alaska courtesy of sponsor John West. McDuff lauds the Moose Jaw Quadrennial of Contemporary Art while saving his highest compliments for Canned Tuna, an exhibition of dolphin friendly art at the Edmonton Gallery of Fish.

Barney Rubble, head of historical curiosity The Notional Art School, is arrested at the Sydney CBD offices of well known businessman Alan Chivers –who also happens to be the head of trustees at The Art Gallery of Contemporary Art in Sydney. Rubble bursts into Chivers office demanding “cash and cheques” and refuses to leave until Chivers agrees to save NAS. Security officers overpower Rubble, prising his fingers away from a trigger leading to a bundle of TNT beneath his coat. Rubble is later released on bail.

The University of Sydney’s College of Phine Arts Plinth Gallery stages a major retrospective of Howard Fitzgerald, an apparently minor figure in the art scene of Sydney in the 1960s and 70s. Starting with paintings done in high school, taking a detour through his tinkering with computers and scribbling on paper bags in the 80s before returning to painting in the late 90s, it becomes apparent that, rather than being a marginal figure, Fitzgerald was actually at the centre of everything. Further proof of his relevance to young people today is supported by a reprint in the catalogue of comments he left on cheeky Sydney art blog The Art Shite.

Major international auction house Christoby’s announces it’s cheaper to close down its entire Australian operation than pay out soon-to-depart CEO Johnny Cravat. Twenty staff are laid off on Friday and by Monday Christoby’s palatial Paddington offices are on the market – ironically administered by chief rival Botherby’s. Industry insiders deplore the company’s callous decision but note with alarm that the closure also means the sudden appearance of twenty new “art advisers” on the market. Cravat, meanwhile, leaves the country to head off to a gambling convention at the stylish Casino Royale in Montenegro.

July

Salo Viczxnecz’s debut show with prestigious commercial dealers Galleries Feldspar is a sell out. Dirty Birds – a series of 12 large scale lambda prints – “investigates notions of gender signification while playing games of free association that trade on the stereotypical motifs of women’s erotica” and includes frank depiction of cunnilingus. Mild controversy follows. Flush with cash from the show Viczxnecz also wins the Women’s Weekly Travelling Art Scholarship, a prize worth $50,000. At the opening Viczxnecz is complemented by a stranger who tells her she “looks really nice tonight.”

Conservative broadsheet The Austrian steps up its campaign for a return to the “three Rs” in education. Launching another series of blistering articles by resident education buff Peter Parker, the paper claims that teacher’s are beholden to “theory” instead of teaching “proper subjects about Australian history” [and confusingly ropes recent art exhibited at Solstice into the argument]. Concerned teachers worried that Parker’s articles misrepresent their profession, teaching methods and philosophy, attempt to get Parker to define exactly what he means by “theory” but to no avail. The teachers request that The Austrian’s editors allow a right of reply are refused. An article WTF Is Peter Parker On About? is published in Teacher’s Gazette only to be republished in radically edited form in The Austrian allowing Parker another go around.

Desperate State Opposition leader Peter Hopeless announces that, should a miracle occur and the Liberals win the next election, he will personally guarantee funding for The Notional Art School for as long as he is leader of New South Wales. Hopeless boasts that’s a promise “you can take to the bank.” Barney Rubble, head of NAS, rejoices that at last, someone will save his beloved art school.

Noted Fijian art dealer Gary Slim-jim sells his DVD of Bite Me by Salo Viczxnecz for $25,000. The Australasian Review of Cash notes that this makes Viczxnecz the “most collectable” new media artist in the country, “possibly the world”. They produce a graph to prove it.

August

The artist duo Cola_Jam working in collaboration with artist Craig Editor finally reveal their four-years-in-the-making Big Video Collage. Although enthusiastically received by older artists happy that their work is being carried on by a younger generation [even if said younger generation has no idea who they are], contemporaries of Cola_Jam dismiss the work as “derivative”, “clichéd” “nothing but hype” while missing the point that that is exactly the whole point.

Despite promising overtures from Astrid Weller Gallery, John Mallett decides not to join the prestigious commercial dealer. Instead, he flies to Singapore to re-stage his performance video My Little P-Ness, before flying on to Rammstein in Germany for the conference Sheer Obviousness In Contemporary Art before flying back to take up a three month stint at the Perth Museum of Distant Art’s Ivory Tower Residency Program. My Little P-Ness meanwhile is glowingly reviewed in Little Funded Art Magazine three months after it is staged at Sport Space.

Following a series of well received art documentaries screened at 11.45pm on Sundays after The Christian Guilt Show, the Australasian Corporation for Broadcasting approaches cheeky Sydney art bloggers The Art Shite with the offer of their own TV series. Starved of cash and desperate to avoid being called “cheeky Sydney art bloggers” forever, they quickly agree. ACB producers suddenly go on strike for the foreseeable future, leaving Art Shite writers, editors and contributors with little more than a promise and a tantalizing possibility.

At Botherby’s annual mid-year sale major works by John Cuntish-Browne Seven Circles of Hell and Poor Bugger Me sell for $1.8 million and $1.25 million respectively. In The Australasian Review of Cash, Browne’s last wife Barbara Dawson-Jones is quoted as saying “It’s what John would have wanted.” In unrelated news, secondary market stalwart Barry Hastings jets off to Lake Como for an extended holiday.

September

Joanna Fairley-Ghirly receives $20,000 from OzCo™ to produce a series of winsome drawings of “pretty things”. The artist is one of 75 artists to receive grants including mid career stalwarts like Harvard O’Brien [works on paper], up and comers such as Ana Ng [yurt design] and John Mallett [performance video]. Despite the best efforts by OzCo™ to leak the list to Andrew Blot – right wing blogger and TV idiot – Blot remains uninterested in the art world due to something he read in magazine somewhere has given him enough fuel for weeks of poorly argued nonsense. Blot promises to get back to the art world when there’s nothing else on TV.

Plans to save the Notional Art School by Liberal Opposition Leader Peter Hopeless are thrown into chaos when it is revealed that Hopeless was arrested by police in March for driving 150kms over the speed limit outside a hospital while drunk and fondling a small boy. Hopeless is ousted by his party as leader while his replacement Tina Chick says the future of the NAS is “low on my list of priorities.” NAS head Barney Rubble goes apoplectic suspecting the news was leaked to the media by Ian Whome, the mild mannered dean of the University of Sydney’s College of Phine Arts. Rubble announces that he can’t prove Whome was involved, but he will even the score, oh yes, he will!

Confusingly published three times a year when no one cares, Yet Another Art Magazine appears with its Performance Art Focus: Vietnam & Laos theme issue. Written by whatshername – that one who used to be a journalist at The Daily Herald – it’s aimed at those who want to know but don’t want to be told. Incredibly, the theme issue fails.

The much loved Little Funded Art Magazine goes glossy with extra funds from Oz-Co™ enabling it to pay its contributors and triple its cover price. Very few copies are sold.

October

Lens Cap New Media – in conjunction with The Centre for the Funded Arts – stage Things You’d Really Rather Forget About, a retrospective of “old media” works screened on “new media”. The show is planned to be accompanied by a 50 page glossy catalogue – including essays and photographs and a DVD – but is rescheduled for publication sometime in 2008 when it becomes apparent the old women at the factory won’t get it made in time for the opening. Meanwhile, works shot on Super 8 are screened on cheap TVs [although they were made to be seen in a cinema] in black and white [although they were made in colour] and up to five seconds out of sync. Everyone involved feels pretty good about it.

The Sydney Museum of Art Gallery proudly announces that senior curator Ricky Tintin has been named to the “curatorium” of the next Moose Jaw Quadrennial of Contemporary Art. Tintin will fly to Canada to advise organisers of the event on how to advise curators and other advisers on how to advise. Tintin plans to advise the MJQCA not to include artists next time as “it’s just so much easier that way”.

With a “shit load” of funding from Brisbane Council, Brisbane Whingers Almanac conducts a “round table” discussion with leading writers, curators and bloggers concerning the “this so-called crisis in art criticism.” Art Shite bloggers are openly insulted by an Almanac editor who begins a question thus: “You guys are a bunch of fucking arseholes – what do you think about that?”

November

Charles Done finally makes it into McGonagall’s Big Book of Aussie Artists after a museum finally buys one of his paintings. Life continues as per normal.

In an email sent out to supporters, friends and select media contacts remaining Sport Space directors announce the closure of the much-loved artist run gallery. Citing a need to “expand horizons and pursue opportunities” Sport Space will no longer be a gallery “tied to exhibiting” but will become a “curatorial project” with events happening “when you least expect them” at “undisclosed locations”. The Sport Space Video Library – mostly consisting of overdue loans from Video Ezy – is passed on to fellow ARI Lens Cap New Media who will exhibit the tapes on a “rotating basis”. Although a performance night is planned for late November, nothing more is heard from Sport Space.

By a quirk of timing, Jack McDuff and Bart Bombastic review the same show on the same day – the New Works on Paper exhibition by Harvard O’Brien. Both critics note the following: the artist is talented; he is sometimes difficult to work with; the gallery has done a great job mounting the show; many have sold. The Sydney Morning Telegraph and The Austrian even use the same art work to illustrate the articles, although the former is slightly smaller than the latter. Readers of both newspapers weep.

Head of the Notional Art School Barney Rubble is arrested late at night in the grounds of the Sydney College of Phine Arts while altering the university’s signage with a spray can to read “Sydney College of Phucking Arseholes”. Rubble is later released into the care of relatives.

At Botherby’s final auction of the year, works by the late John Cuntish-Browne are offered to an enthusiastic buying public – large works such as Your Hair Is Beautiful [1976] fetches $760,000 while smaller works on paper such as 1982’s Drawing of A Bottle of Booze go for around $25,000. Although the vendors attempt to remain anonymous, The Australasian Review of Cash reports that Browne’s children Jasper and Emily Cuntish-Browne are offloading a life time’s worth of Christmas and birthday presents.

December

Tickets sell fast for 2007’s Festival of Sydney’s annual Big Headlining Avant Garde Theatre Production from America – Peter Sellar’s The New Testament. The marathon four hour production features a libretto by Tom Stoppard based on the Gospel of St. Paul to a score by Sigur Ros and Philip Glass, and starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Jesus, Sinead O’Conner as Mary Magdalene, Tom Waites as Judas and a special appearance by Iggy Pop as Pontius Pilot. The New York Times describes the production as “one of the most significant new theatre productions of the last half century” and described its music as “surely one of the most mesmerizing and audacious collaborations of recent memory… nothing short of astonishing”. The Washington Post says Gyllenhaal “proves that not only is he one of the best young film actors around, he proves [in The New Testament] that he has both emotional depth and maturity and turns what must be one of the most thankless parts into a tour de force of charismatic intensity”. The Sydney Festival proudly presents a pared down version of the production, featuring at least 75 per cent of the music, most of the stage settings and bravely substituting Craig McLachlan as Jesus, Little Patty as Mary Magdalene, Bert Newton as Judas and Angry Anderson as Pontius Pilot. [Proudly Sponsored by Australia Post].

Cheeky Sydney art bloggers The Art Shite unveil their Things That Didn’t Happen in 2006 post after weeks of work. Unimpressed readers decide TAS [as it is lovingly referred to] is no longer “funny” and has “lost it”. Readers leave comments to that effect. Life continues as per normal.

The Art Life

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