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via Frieze:

Unhappy Birthday, by Dan Fox

Tate – hardly a stranger to controversy – has this week come under attack from two artist groups, their criticisms centered around Tate Modern’s tenth anniversary celebration No Soul for Sale, which was held over the weekend of 14–16 May.

Making A Living, an anonymous organisation describing itself as ‘a discussion group of arts professionals currently active across the UK’, issued an open letter to the Tate challenging the museum’s treatment of artists during the ‘No Soul for Sale’ event.

The group write: ‘It has come to our attention that many participants are not being paid by Tate Modern for their efforts. In fact, most are self-funding their activities throughout the weekend. Tate describes this situation as a “spirit of reciprocal generosity between Tate and the contributors”. But at what point does expected generosity become a form of institutional exploitation? Once it becomes endemic within a large publicly funded art space?’

Arguing that ‘it is complacent for Tate to believe that their position is comparable to ground level arts activity’ and that it is ‘disingenuous’ for the museum to claim that this ‘spirit of reciprocal generosity’ is ‘somehow altruistic or philanthropic’, Making A Living go on to accuse Tate of not having paid artists ‘for some exhibitions, workshops and events, including last year’s Tate Triennial’, although no specific details are given in the letter.

They end their letter by calling on Tate ‘to make public its policy in regard to artists’ fees’.

Read the rest of this entry »

via Newsgrist

Ai Weiwei on the reasons writing, blogging and tweeting on politics matters

By Chris Gill | From Art Basel Miami Beach daily edition, 3 Dec 09
Published online 3 Dec 09

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, speaking today at Art Basel Conversations (right), is recovering from brain surgery in Munich, the result, he says, of an assault by police officers in Sichuan Province. “The operation saved my life,” he said when The Art Newspaper visited his Beijing studio just before the fair, adding that it will take around four months for him to fully recover.

Ai’s popular blog on Chinese website has been removed, and his activities are now limited to Twitter, on which he has around 10,000 followers. “140 characters is enough—following the operation, that is all I have the attention span for,” he said. “I cannot write long articles right now.” Twitter is blocked by the government in China, so users hack into the site.

Recent topics on his prolific feed have included his ongoing struggle with Sichuan police over the assault, his research into the Sichuan earthquake, the nomination of Chinese writers for the International PEN Writers in Prison award and the recent Obama visit to China, often using strong language. The police in Sichuan have issued an official denial of his assault (Ai says he has a recording of the attack that took place against him), and the government has now launched a probe into his finances.

Describing his move into the media, Ai said: “To use art is not enough, to describe your view, in the old traditional forms, such as painting, sculpture…as a citizen you need to express your views. Writing, blogging and giving interviews is a part of that, otherwise you will very easily be misunderstood by the establishment…as long as there is power and people there will be a struggle.”

Ai grew up with his family in exile in Shihezi, on a semi-military farm camp in Xinjiang Province, in the north west of China. “[The Cultural Revolution] was nothing but frightening,” he said. “The whole society was frightening. I was born in 1957—the year my father [the poet Ai Qing] went into exile. First he was sent to the forests in north China to work, then one year later to Xinjiang, so I grew up there until I was 18 years old. During the Cultural Revolution we were sent to live in the poorest conditions as punishment. I hate to tell those stories, there is too much sentiment there. The fact is people died, were dying. My father lost his sight in one eye, he almost died several times, and I came out of there very fragile.”

Ai then went to New York. “A completely different civilisation—1980s art, German expressionism, all these kinds of things there,” he said. His career started as a painter. “In school I majored in animation and then started doing more installations or objects. I came back to China in 1993, having left in 1981.” Ai was one of the original members of the Stars Group, considered the most important movement following China’s reform process of the 1980s. “This was completely new, freedom, but the party wouldn’t let you go too far, unless there was some structure. There were struggles, there was no real understanding of contemporary life then, it was more art for art’s sake—but quite political.”

Ai said he threw away his work from that period. “I never knew I would be so successful today…I had my first show in 2004, in Bern.” Ai had already been in China for more than ten years, working on his underground book project, and had founded the China Art Archives and Warehouse gallery with Hans van Dijk. He also co-curated the Shanghai exhibition “Fuck Off” in 2000 at Eastlink Gallery, with Feng Boyi. “I was quite unhappy about some of the content [of that show], but art is not about making people happy. Not much art touches the taboo—it was ugly, bloody, violent and sickening, but not far from reality. Reality in China is at least one million times worse.”

Ai’s latest work is Sunflower Seeds, 2009, a pile of 1,000 handmade ceramic sunflower seeds. “These seeds, they are a memory of the Communist times, we would share these seeds with friends,” he said. He does not know what effect the Chinese government’s censorship on art exports (The Art Newspaper, November 2009, p1) will have on future shows he may have abroad—works for his previous two major shows this year at the Munich Haus der Kunst and Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum were shipped out of China before the rules came into place in August. “I think strategically China has come to a very crucial moment, they have to re-justify themselves, even the past 20 to 30 years are based on a kind of destructive, suicidal act. Now they are trying to reach a higher level, but I think in any society, culture should have its own rights, not to be touched by the government, not to be promoted by the government, also not to be destroyed by the government.”

For the full version of this interview, see the January issue of The Art Newspaper

Download the complete issue (PDF)

via The Irish TImes


THE ARTS sector is worth €782 million a year to the economy and employs 26,519 people, research released yesterday has found.

Assessment of Economic Impact of the Arts in Ireland, a report by Indecon Economic Consultants, commissioned by the Arts Council and written by economist Dr Alan Gray, suggests the economic impact of the arts may be larger than generally perceived.

“Previous figures bandied about significantly have overestimated the economic impact of the arts sector,” Mr Gray said at a briefing on the report yesterday. Because they overstated the economic impact of the arts they were not taken seriously and “led economists and policymakers to believe the arts had no impact or minimal impact on the economy.”

But this Indecon report “shows the arts sector does have significant economic impact”.

Some €76 million of Arts Council funding to organisations in Ireland supports more than 3,000 jobs, generates €192 million in turnover, and €54 million of it returns directly to the exchequer in taxes, the report found.

Arts Council chairwoman Pat Moylan said: “At last we can back up what we have known by instinct – the Arts Council is making a very significant contribution to the Irish economy, and can help to generate hundreds more jobs right now, for a proportionately small extra investment.”

Dr Gray said the research was rigorous and independent and the analysis showed the arts and cultural sectors had a significant economic impact. “While I do not believe that the arts should be evaluated solely on economic grounds, it is clear the sector is an important and labour-intensive one. It also makes a significant contribution to exchequer revenues.”


Arts workers throughout the city and county are coming together to ensure the place of the arts in our country’s recovery, in a March For The Arts at 2pm on Saturday 14 November beginning at Daunt Square. Cork artists and arts workers are proud of their contribution to Cork’s designation in the Lonely Planet Best of 2010 Guide as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit and the significance that this has had to the local economy.

At a meeting in the Everyman Palace Theatre on the 29th of October, arts workers in Cork came together to discuss what they could do locally to voice their support for the National Campaign for  the Arts (

The National Campaign for the Arts asserts the fundamental importance of the arts to economic recovery and calls for:

1.       Retention of Culture Ireland, the agency for the promotion of Irish arts worldwide.

2.       Retention of The Irish Film Board, development agency of the Irish film industry.

3.       Maintenance of existing levels of funding to the Arts Council.

4.       Retention of the artists’ income tax exemption scheme.

5.       Commitment to retain the arts portfolio at cabinet as part of a senior ministerial portfolio.

There was a very strong feeling at the meeting that, as well as contacting TDs and local representatives to make the case for the arts, a public action of sorts needed to be made, not only by arts workers, but by the general public who are supporters of the arts and who are concerned about the effects of cuts to arts funding. Cork artists and arts workers are proud of their contribution to Cork’s designation in the Lonely Planet Best of 2010 Guide as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit and the significance that this has had to the local economy. It is hoped that with the maintenance of current levels of Arts Council funding, the arts in Cork will continue to draw visitors to the area and that Cork can capitalise on the spending power of these visitors..

So on Saturday November 14th, all concerned parties will gather at Daunt Square and march down Patrick’s Street and gather again at Emmet Place. The main objectives are to raise awareness and inform people of what’s at stake for the Arts in the forthcoming budget and to ask people to add their signatures to an online petition ( in support of the cause.

For more information on the march, visit

An extra special event will take place at 1.30pm, just before the march – for more information on how to be involved, email

Julie Kelleher

This visit to Istanbul coincided with the Istanbul Bienal and was funded through the European Commission project, Rhyzom, with partners Agency (UK), aaa (France), Public Works (UK), PS2 (Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland). The field trip was to visit our Turkish partners, the Cultural Agencies project, curated by Nikolaus Hirsch, Philip Misselwitz and Oda Projesi:
The project fosters an intensive exchange between international students, artists, curators, architects, and Istanbul’s cultural institutions as well as local communities in order to mutually develop initiatives for the future of these peripheries.
An interdisciplinary project by artists, architects, and students on the topics of city planning and public space in Istanbul’s peripheries. An initiative of the Allianz Cultural Foundation in cooperation with the Platform Garanti & Garanti Gallery (Istanbul), the Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts (Istanbul), and the Städelschule (Frankfurt). Read the rest of this entry »

Via the Irish Times, September 23rd 2009:

The arts cement our reputation abroad, are crucial to our smart economy, provide employment at home, fuel cultural tourism, and help form the nation’s psyche – they are vital to our national recovery, writes GERRY GODLEY.
IRISH ARTISTS, your country needs you. If there was a consensus among the high achievers of the Irish diaspora gathered in Farmleigh last weekend, surely this was it. A roll call of totemic figures, including financier Dermot Desmond, philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman, film-maker Neil Jordan and a forthright Minister for Arts, Martin Cullen, all avowed the importance of culture in the economic heavy lifting to come. Earlier this year, its potency in international affairs was underscored by Brian Cowen in New York, when he spoke of how “most Americans encounter Ireland today through culture: whether that is Irish dance and music, Irish film, Irish writing or an Irish play on Broadway”. Mary Robinson asserted its importance in a social fabric context speaking in August at the annual Béal na mBláth commemoration, when she said: “We should listen to our creative artists.”
Like the rest of us, they are each in their own way drawing from the well of our remarkable achievements. Each successive nominee or winner of an Oscar, Tony, Grammy, Golden Globe, Mercury and Man Booker, not to mention this week’s Emmy success, our Nobel Laureate and the world’s most successful rock band, is a jewel hewn from the rich seams of artistic expression that permeate every stratum of Irish life, representing levels of participation surpassed only by our great sporting traditions.
The arts have a vital role to play in our national recovery in five distinct areas.

According to the article, these are the arts and our reputational capital; the arts and the smart economy; the arts and cultural tourism; the arts and employment; the arts and the national psyche. The full text of Godfrey’s excellent article is held here.

Allora & Calzadilla, How to Appear Invisible, 16mm film on HD, 2008
The two new works shown by Allora & Calzadilla are the latest in a series of commissioned works that extrapolate on the unfolding historical and social dynamic of the Schlossplatz, the site of the temporary kunsthalle.

Pleasingly, it is the large expanse of the Kunsthalle that is left essentially vacant, with the film work being installed (unfortunately poorly) the entrance area adjacent to the bookshop:

Allora & Calzadilla’s new work ‘Compass‘, 2009, conceived specifically for the Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, creates a new spatial and acoustic experience. Dividing the Kunsthalle horizontally, a level is introduced, inaccessible to the viewer and reducing the grand exhibition hall to less than one third. Visitors can only hear the vibrations and sounds of an a capella dancer performing a choreography above their heads. The otherwise empty exhibition space is turned into a huge resonating chamber.
The film is quite beautifully shot on 16mm film, if a little indulgent and overly long in places, documenting the last days of the demolition of the Palast der Republik in late 2008. Its saving grace is its protagonist, a German Shepherd dog who is wearing a headcollar made from a plastic KFC bucket. His curiosity and interestedness, and that of the camera that follows him, distinguishes the film from so much other film work made in recent years that takes Berlin/ communism/ modernistic interiors as its subject and beautiful/melancholic as the mood for its sumptuous, elegant and detached panning shots. The KFC bucket, protecting the dog from licking his wounds, is presumably also a discomfort, an annoyance, and a hindrance to proper vision. However the metaphor isn’t overplayed, and as is typical of Allora & Calzadilla’s work, there is that unique and satisfying contrast between functionality and political poetry.
Exhibition at Temporäre Kunsthalle, Schlossplatz, Berlin-Mitte, July 11th til September 6th 2009

via Visual Artists Ireland:

In a statement issued on Monday 7 September 2009, the Arts Council has said that it is to argue for the continuation of the Artists’ Tax Exemption Scheme. The Arts Council has reported that it will make a strong case to Government for the retention of the tax exemption scheme, the discontinuation of which was recommended by the Taxation Commission’s report, also published on Monday.

Ms Pat Moylan, Chairman of the Arts Council, was quoted as saying that the Arts Councilís unequivocal advice to the Minister for Finance and the Government will be that the tax exemption scheme should be retained in its entirety. Outlining the issues that the Arts Council has with the Commission’s recommendation 8.98, Ms Moylan emphasised the detrimental effects that the removal of the Artists’ Tax Exemption could have on artists who would be directly affected by an abolition of the scheme and on the country’s global cultural profile:

“The Arts Council disagrees with the recommendation of the Commission on Taxation.  As the Diaspora event at Farmleigh will confirm when it debates this matter in two weeks’ time, Ireland has a tremendous opportunity to promote itself in a positive way through our global cultural profile.  If the exemption was withdrawn, a situation would be created where there would be pressure on that profile,” Ms Moylan said.
“If the exemption goes, we could lose entirely, or in part, to the art world or other jurisdictions, a considerable number of artists.  This would not be for the public good.”
She warned that if the exemption were scrapped, it would discourage artists who might think, at the early stages of their careers, that they have the potential for very significant commercial success from staying in Ireland.  It could also discourage people from continuing with a career in the arts.
“The artists’ exemption scheme is not a ‘rich man’s’ relief as has been portrayed in some quarters.  The greatest number of its beneficiaries struggle for financial viability on a year-on-year basis.  This is true of relatively unknown beneficiaries, as well as certain of Ireland’s most internationally renowned and critically acclaimed artists.
“Arts Council research has shown that over half the beneficiaries of the Scheme have average earnings of less than half the minimum wage.  Of the two per cent who are considered high earners, most of whom are in popular music and writing, only one-third of their income qualifies for the relief.
“It is important for Ireland to have artists of world renown resident in Ireland, just for example Seamus Heaney, Roddy Doyle, John Banville, Patricia Scanlan, the Corrs, U2, Enya, Westlife, Boyzone, the Cranberries, Paul Brady, Louis le Brocquy, Robert Ballagh, Jim Sheridan, Neil Jordan, Maeve Binchy, Cathy Kelly, Marion Keyes – and there are many others.
“Apart from the global perception this creates for Ireland, it has helped put in place world class local infrastructures in artistic management and technical expertise.  For up and coming artists, this is of considerable assistance.  Without the high earners, who support the infrastructure in a major way, this professional layer would be lost to Ireland.”
“The Arts Council, based on figures from a few years ago, had worked out that if the exemption were scrapped and artists leave Ireland, the Exchequer could be foregoing some €36 million in tax revenue – far more than it will bring in!”

from Arts Council News

September 7th 2009 via Visual Artists Ireland
In the Taxation Commission report published today we see another attack on the Artists Tax Exemption Scheme. In the recommendation 8.98 the Commission has called for a complete abolition of the tax exemption. The fact that individual artists are one of the most economically deprived groups that punch above their own weight in their contribution to Irish society has been ignored.
Read the rest of this entry »
Dan Dubowitz & Fearghus O’Conchuir at Martello Tower, Skerries
Public art commission by Fingal County Council
00 Outlaws-of-History-Skerries2009

The Martello tower at Skerries, all of the dozen on the Dublin coast in fact, are remarkable buildings: highly idiosyncratic now, and quickly anachronistic even when they were built first  in the nineteenth century.
The collaboration between Dubowitz and O’Conchuir – visual artist and dancer/ choreographer – over the last two years departed from this initial curiosity. The resultant work manifests in the Skerries tower as a 12 screen video installation, to be regarded from a single point of view on a platform built for visitors. Each screen shows a single slow panning shot from the canon position in each of the twelve towers, coolly surveying the remains of each tower’s interior architecture and the view beyond, from chic inhabitation to rugged folly. Ah, Portmarnock golf course, says a visitor at my shoulder.
Read the rest of this entry »
July 2020