Australia Council clashes with donors over Venice Biennale

The Australia Council has put out an open call for artists interested in exhibiting at the Venice Biennale in 2019. Applications will be reviewed by an independent panel of experts.

“This approach will ensure Australia’s representation in Venice continues to be a rich source of exciting new Australian work,” said Australia Council chair Rupert Myer. “The success of the project over many years is testament to the leadership and commitment of a national network of philanthropists and visual arts advocates.”

However, this selection process has not been welcomed by everyone. Two of the leading financial backers for the Australia Pavilion – Neil Balnaves and Simon Mordant – have said they will withdraw their support if this new system is pursued.

Previously, donors took an active role in the Biennale selection process. Balnaves and Mordant have said they were not consulted about the changes, which Balnaves described as “outrageous”. He has invested AUD1m (€660,000) of his foundation’s money in the event since 2007.

Myer stated that private donors would still be involved: “The highly successful public-private partnership model will continue to be absolutely central to realising Australia’s representation in Venice, with advocacy and fundraising led by the Venice Council, an external group of leading contemporary visual arts advocates and distinguished arts philanthropists.”