Friday, August 24, 2007
On The Ramparts
Yesterday, after my photo-shoot for the fashion magazine, I was 'phoned by Louise Schwartzkoff, a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. She wanted a comment on this year's Primavera at the Museum of Contemporary Art, an event that's supposed to promote (in the MCA's own words) "the hottest emerging young artists". This year, the selected artists are mostly in their late 20s and early 30s."Don't you think that's a bit old to be considered a young or emerging artist?", Ms. Schwartzkoff asked."Yes. The so-called Young British Artists – Emin, Hirst, Whiteread and others – were either conquering the world in their 30s or had done so already," I said. "I also think it's bloody condescending to young Australian artists, especially those under 25, to suggest that they don't have anything valuable to offer before they're 30. Some have already been making art for 10 years! Primavera should be a showcase for work that hasn't yet been seen widely, work that may not have been sold or supported yet – in other words new work, by new artists.""The curator has suggested that this years selection is made up of the people who would have been included in Primavera 10 years ago," she pointed out. "Well, that goes against Primavera's mission statement," I argued. "There aren't many opportunities for emerging young artists to have their work exhibited in large institutional galleries within Australia, and I think they need to be supported early in their career. The curator's proposal demeans all the young artists excluded as well as those included.""What about the view that work by very young artists tends to be grungy and not suitable?", she asked."Huh? That's a ridiculous stereotype. There are plenty of articulate, intelligent, professional and ambitious artists in their early 20s. Damien Hirst was curating large exhibitions of his and other artist's work in his early 20s and the most eminent YBA's were making and exhibiting very significant works before they were 30. The art world in Australia needs to stop being so backward and conservative and recognise its homegrown talent early.""So what does this mean for the young artists who are not being included in such exhibitions?""In the end, probably not a lot. Young artists are now begninning to abandon the rather shop-soiled traditions of these institutions entirely. I organise my own exhibitions and my art is seen by millions of people both here and internationally through my use of the internet. It's nice for emerging artists to have institutional support, if it comes when they need it, but really, exhibitions like Primavera aren't relevant to young artists' careers – or contemporary art – anymore."