Michael Parekowhai The World Turns 2012, originally uploaded by cubamxc.
There’s been more art-bashing by politicians in the media today. Arts Minister Ros Bates has branded The World Turns a shocking misuse of taxpayer dollars, while insisting her comments were “not a smear on the artist or the sculpture”. Now let’s keep in mind that this is the Arts Minister, someone who’s supposed to be advocating for the arts, not rallying against it!
The Parekowhai commission commemorates both the fifth anniversary of the opening of GoMA and the 20th anniversary of the Asia Pacific Triennial (APT). The work reportedly acknowledges the small “kuril” or native water rat, after which Kurilpa Point is named, as caretaker of the site, who upends the elephant with its cultural and intellectual weight.
Embroiled in a nepotism scandal, the burden of Bates objection was that “more than $1 million was spent on this single piece of art, commissioned by an artist who doesn’t live in Queensland – or Australia for that matter”. It’s described as costing taxpayers just over $1 million, when in fact $750,000 has been funded through art+place, Queensland Public Art Fund, with the remaining $250,000 raised by the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation. Furthermore, the shortlisted artists were of the Asia Pacific, which appropriately reflects a work commemorating APT’s 20th anniversary.
As Terry Sweetman points out, ‘It was an easy kick – particularly among people who can’t get off the couch to go to the football, let alone patronise a public gallery – but the funding and acquisition of art is long recognised as a legitimate role of government’.
Despite Sweetman’s subjective misgivings of the commission, he acknowledges that the Queensland Cultural Centre precinct had an unlikely godfather in Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen, and that ‘the precinct’s reputation is not built on government funding alone. It also rests on enlightened and imaginative stewardship that has, at times, been allowed to defy conventional wisdom and tastes’.