Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
111 Sturt Street Melbourne, March – May 2008
Daniel Argyle, Matt Hinkley, Sandra Selig, Chris Bond, Gabrielle de Vietri, Paul Knight, Jonathan Jones, curated by Anna MacDonald
Do ACCA’s annual NEW shows act as a “stepping-stone on the road to career success” for artists? It’s unlikely that ACCA is set up to provide for an emerging artist in a meaningful way, as an artist-run initiative, project space or a committed commercial gallery may do by providing an ongoing venue or network of support and opportunity. What NEW does do is commission a one-off work of “scale and ambition” from selected artists. Needless to say, the show is subject to a great deal of expectation and hype, although NEW08 seems to have passed so far with less fanfare or review than usual.
Seven artists are included in the un-themed show, this year curated in-house by Anna MacDonald. The best are those who succeed in creating cohesive solo shows within the larger exhibition. Paul Knight, Matt Hinkley and Chris Bond each simply exhibit great works representative of their ongoing practices. Rather than showing off a body of work, David Argyle, Sandra Selig and Jonathan Jones contribute more singular works that are not necessarily amongst their best and at times struggle to gain traction in ACCA’s cavernous main hall. Gabrielle de Vietri’s series of interactive and performative works attempt to engage, recalling aspects of several recent ACCA exhibitions, including Gillian Wearing (the sincere admissions and personal exposures), A Constructed World (the singing and dancing) and Anastasia Klose (dealing with family relationships).
Previous NEWs have occasionally engaged guest curators allowing the possibility of injecting a different curatorial perspective to ACCAs program, but it’s fair enough to give the institution’s own junior curatorial staff the chance to develop a major show. A different matter however, is the inclusion of two ACCA staff in the artist line-up. Sure we can argue there is an intrinsic “grey area” of nepotism and a chaos of conflicting interests within the art industry, but isn’t it surely crossing even the blurriest of lines when a public gallery includes staff in the program? At best it’s lazy. Strange then that this seems to be accepted practice at such a leading institution, and stranger still that it seems to go unquestioned.
image Chris Bond Mirrorworld 2008, photo John Brash