Starving artists

Chris Kenny

The romantic notion of the starving artist may be losing some of its appeal, replaced by the state-funded activist grandstander. Instead of bohemians burning Rodolfo’s manuscript to keep warm, today’s artists can burn the dollars of private sponsors to make party political points. Artists happy to take government grants or exhibit at events funded by government then can use them as platforms to target a private sponsor.

It is actually more pernicious. The public funding of artists in Australia has crowded out art. To be an artist, one must struggle. The bohemian of today lives too comfortably and hence is unable to produce art. Once the artist struggled and produced fine art. Today they live comfortably and struggle to produce art.

Do we want to increase the supply of quality art in Australia? If the answer is yes, we must abolish the Australia Council. Artists must seek patronage from the private sector as they have for thousands of years.

This would be a pareto improvement. Cutting the Australia Council would improve the Budget, lead to a greater supply of great art and improve the wellbeing of today’s cohort of substandard artists.

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97 Responses to Starving artists

  1. Blogstrop

    Start by being ruthlessly honest about what they produce. Too much leeway is given to charlatans in the arts world.

  2. Mike of Marion

    The most profitable section of the ‘ARTS” is the “pressure pack can paint manufacturer”

  3. A Lurker

    Please do not tar all artists with the same brush. I am an artist, but I’m also a Conservative/Libertarian, and that makes me a rare beast indeed. I’ve also never taken a cent of taxpayer money to fund my art, instead paying for it all myself, and in fact, earning a modest sum by selling it commercially. I also know of some Leftist artists who have gone into small business and are trying to make a living selling their art commercially – I applaud them for their efforts, for even if they succeed or fail, they at least have tried.

    However there are a lot of artists out there who are of Leftist persuasion and who believe that it is their right to be funded by Government, and also that it is their right to produce unmitigated crap that has little to no inherent beauty of form or ascetic value. These seem to be the same sort of artists that when Labor was in Government, were more than happy to hoover up taxpayer dollars that were so willingly flung at them and make artistic statements that aligned with the political ideology of Labor/Greens – yet still seem more than willing to hoover up the taxpayer dollars of a Conservative Government, whilst hypocritically complaining against their policies.

    As an artist I believe all Government art funding should be withdrawn (except small grants to local and inoffensive community groups) so that the market alone determines the worth of what artists create. If the market doesn’t recognise ‘true art’ then the artist can at the very least create their ‘art’ for their own pleasure, however the bills still need to paid, and artists, like everyone else, will have to get a job to pay them.

  4. ChrisPer

    SOOOOO much shit is talked about starving artists producing great art. Actually much great art of the past was produced by superstars who were well paid in material and prestige rewards, as great actors or directors are now.

    The problem is the committee nature of Governmetn funding – as all the rest of political correctness operates, it’s a moral status auction so you have to demonstrate a winning bid in the moral status stakes. Blech, tedium in all other events.

    Similarly the ‘Public Art’ subsidised by Government building contracts; artist has 25 minutes to submit a conforming bid with deisgns,costing, conformance documentation on safety, liability in every respect etc just like Transfield or Multiplex do, except they have to include the creative design phase in the bid prep time. Hence, many substandard ideas are funded and built as major sculptures.

  5. ChrisPer

    And A Lurker above is the true representative of mainstream artists today; they fund their own creation out of their sales or day job or what is left over from household income after taking care of family, and many are excellent artists.

    Neither starving, nor Government funding drive excellence.

  6. Rabz

    The vast bulk of modern art is utter shite, as are the whiny, pretentious idiots responsible for it.

    We have some classic examples here in ZP.

  7. Peter

    Great reward should be the return for great performance.

    That is true whether we are discussing athletics, business, farming art, or any field of endeavour. Further, great performance only comes after great endeavour. Study, training, hard work and more hard work. The starving-artist-in-a-garret may be a romantic stereotype, but it is also based on this principle. …… that greatness comes to those to whom their work is more important than their comfort.

    There seems to be a myth that great art can somehow arise out of mediocrity…… That inspiration comes as some form of divine gifting. It ignores the role of the 90% that is perspiration.

  8. duncanm

    mmmm perheps you meant “asthetic”, a Lurker… I’m not sure there’s much enjoyment to be had in abstention.

    However, good on you. I don’t think you’ll get a lot of disagreement on your points here.

    I do agree with Samuel – “The public funding of artists in Australia has crowded out art”. The morally correct tosh is shoved down our throats at public events, at the expense of artists who are actually talented.

  9. Tintarella di Luna

    The vast bulk of modern art is utter shite, as are the whiny, pretentious idiots responsible for it.
    We have some classic examples here in ZP.

    Yes you’ve had Skywhale, earlier this year Melbourne had the ballet movement Bowel Motion which so elegantly makes your point Rabz.

  10. lotocoti

    To be an artist, one must struggle.

    And it is a struggle.
    Especially when you have a talent too precious to be crudely sold.

    Sometimes it’s hard not to feel that what you’re doing is pointless and irrelevant….
    especially when close friends, who are generally supportive and understand the struggle to make creative work, come out with comments like: ‘well, the rest of us have to work’ in response to discussion about getting funding to get to finland for particle wave next year.
    … hello excuse me what the hell do you think I’m doing? sitting around drinking martinis? well, very occasionally but in general I’m head down in the studio or at the computer doing my damndest to keep this show on the road. without having to go back to waitressing, or mind-numbing admin or any other mcjob. Why the hell shouldn’t I be able to earn a living using my skills and talents?

    Years ago, via TimB.

  11. Rabz

    I finally saw the Skywhale yesterday morning. It was floating over my car on the way to work.

    Couldn’t help thinking, there’s $320,000 of taxpayers’ money well spent.

    Actually, I didn’t think that.

  12. cynical1

    To be an artist, one must struggle.

    Knitting a scarf with the ball of wool inserted into your vagina.

    It’s a struggle alright.

    Comedy is art though, isn’t it?

  13. johno

    There are no justifications for my money being taken off me and paid to someone who claims to be an artist. If some one wishes to be an artist and wants my money, then should produce something I am prepared to buy.

    Taxpayer funding of art produces crap art.

    Just stop it.

  14. calli

    Poor Rabz. Do your eyes hurt? Or your sides? That pain you feel in the hip pocket is totally understandable though.

  15. A Lurker

    @ Duncanm, yes, you are correct – aesthetic was the word I was striving for. I blame the early hour (and auto-correct). 🙂

    This, in my opinion, is true art – whilst this is rubbish.

  16. Ellen of Tasmania

    The vast bulk of modern art is utter shite, as are the whiny, pretentious idiots responsible for it.

    “Many modern novels, poems, and pictures, which we are browbeaten into ‘appreciating’, are not good work because they are not work at all. They are mere puddles of spilled sensibility or reflection.

    When an artist is in the strict sense working, he of course takes into accout the existing taste, interests, and capacity of his audience. These, no less than the language, the marble or the paint, are part of his raw material; to be used, tamed, sublimated, not ignored or defied.

    Haughty indifference to them is not genius nor integrity; it is laziness and incompetence. You have not learned your job. …..

    But a puddle is not a work, whatever rich wines or oils or medicines have gone into it.”

    (C S Lewis)

  17. calli

    Good one, Lurker.

    A consummate storytellerextortionist, Tracey Emin engages the viewer with her candid exploration of universal emotions relieving taxpayers of their hard earned. Well-known for her confessional art lack of talent, Tracey Emin reveals intimate details from her life to engage the viewer with her expressions of universal emotions flipping the bird to those who work for a living. Her ability to integrate her work and personal life enables Emin to establish an intimacy with the viewer a tidy little income stream with the minimum amount of effort.


  18. Tintarella di Luna

    Couldn’t help thinking, there’s $320,000 of taxpayers’ money well spent.

    Actually, I didn’t think that.

    I’ll bet you didn’t. Isn’t it passing strange that all the shite one sees passing (and that it an apt verb) for art is often funded via delegated authority by the taxpayer without the taxpyer’s knowledge or consent.

  19. duncanm

    Lurker, you picked a good one:

    Poor Tracey can’t understand why her taxes are so high, whilst bemoaning cuts to public arts funding.

    Here Tracey, have a cluebat.

  20. Tintarella di Luna

    I think it all started with the wrapping of Little Bay in cling flim

  21. Senile Old Guy

    To be an artist, one must struggle. The bohemian of today lives too comfortably and hence is unable to produce art.

    This is a stupid remark and unworthy of the Cat. Read up on the lives of the great artists of the past. Some struggled; some did not. Just like the great scientists, or mathematicians, or anything else, they had all sorts of experiences.

    The popular notion that great art requires great personal tragedy has been debunked quite thoroughly. Check the life of Shakespeare: not much evidence of a struggle there (not criticising his work in any way).

  22. Tintarella di Luna

    Steve at the Pub left this on The Guns of March thread last night – very symmetrical and quite artistic but I then again I’ve never managed stick figures.

    ?«´¨`•°Steve kicked Vasily’s Ass•´¨`»?

  23. Fred Lenin

    You people dont unnerstandwot we soshalist artists ave to go thru!wWe ave to go to youniversity an join the soshalist alliace an lissen to boring ole marxist farts dronin on about revalooshin an that,an be theupir typists an that ,some go on to be industrial lawyers the best liars do that .Us gifted artists go to the Australia Council,(I can spell that cos its on the checks) .they dont just give yer the dosh ya gotta prove yer PC ( whatever the Fuck that means) .an ya gotta vote alp or green,yer on the gravy train then! A exibishin with cheap cask wine an Aldi cheese fer the goormets,a lot of swearin about Tony Abbot an yer home an hosed comrade,go fer it!

  24. Tel

    Knitting a scarf with the ball of wool inserted into your vagina.

    Difficult to excite people these days: tough crowd, seen it all.

  25. Craig Mc

    Good for you Lurker! I’d be happy to see you give yourself a free plug here.

    Too many people confuse their hobby with a career. It’s not a career until you can quit your day job and not darken a CentreLink office.

  26. Fred Lenin

    To be serious many great artists struggled ,but not all,Monet ended up a wealthy man,one look at Giverny would confirm that ,many came from middle class families who helped them .Correct me if I am wrong But can anyone remember. A famous painter who came from a peasant or lowerclass background,? i would be interested to know of someone like that.

  27. PoliticoNT


    Skywhale =

    A mighty copyright infringement if ever there was one.

  28. blogstrop

    I see in the Weekend Australian magazine that Sotheby’s are to auction Tom Roberts’ painting Miss Minna Simpson, expecting $300k-400k. That’s cheap compared to the price of many rather less attractive Picaso works! If that’s still too rich and you want something affordable but more than a print of it, you can get a copy done in oils by an artist for just $279.

  29. C.L.

    There isn’t one great artist in Australia.

    Not one.

  30. PoliticoNT

    I am an artist, but I’m also a Conservative/Libertarian, and that makes me a rare beast indeed.


    I produce poster art. Same as you I fund myself. Same as you I’m Conservative/Libertarian. But man are we in the minority. I’d be keen to see you work. Maybe post a link. My last two exhibitions were:

    I?Baghdad (2010)
    that comment is illegal in this country (2013)

    The latter exhibition came about in part because of Labor’s attempts to bring in media and speech control laws.

  31. ralph

    Artists have also sought and obtained the patronage of the state for thousands of years – it probably has a richer/longer history than private patronage.

  32. AndrewL

    Who funded fine art through most of western history? Monarchy, aristocracy. Roman emperors funded self-aggrandising monuments. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair of SamuelJ.

  33. But can anyone remember. A famous painter who came from a peasant or lowerclass background,?

    Giotto was the son of a blacksmith;
    Leonardo da Vinci was the bastard son of a peasant woman, Caterina, a notary, Piero da Vinci;
    Nicolas Poussin was the son of a peasant woman and a soldier;
    Jean-Antoine Watteau’s father was a master tiler; and
    Pierre-Auguste Renoir had working-class parents.

  34. kae

    If an artist is starving then they’re not much chop and should get a real job to support their hobby.

    Someone who calls themselves an artist and sits around waiting for the dollars to come from the government is not an artist, either.

    Good on you, Lurker. I wish you every success!

  35. john constantine

    okay,dunno about suffering,but life experience is the basic input. two forks in the artistic road,one fork is pandering to the gatekeepers of the bucket of government funding,so you produce a bland average of all that has qualified for grant funding before. second fork is you make art out of the way you see and experience the world you are moving through. [and if the world you are immersed in is the world of leftie mates giving government money to leftie mates,for being the correct sort of leftie mate,your art will be crap in the eyes of everybody who isn’t a leftie mate.]

    get a real job,live a real life,and have something interesting to inform the people about. simply getting government funding to be yet another leftie ‘typhoid mary spreading depression’,or getting tax money to raise public awareness of how important it is to give tax money to lefties has to end to get actual creative arts back into australian life. [yes i got some grant money years ago,piddled it all up against the urinal tray as soon as i got it.lovely night.]

  36. nonmus

    I have been fortunate to make a reasonable living from art and never asked for nor accepted a penny in the form of a grant of government handout. I simply identified a commercial niche and sold my work in a form and at a price for which there was a ready demand. I suppose that some of the immortal but distressingly awful public sculptures littering the public spaces of Brisbane are the works of some of these handout people, no doubt under the patronage of some generous, well-meaning but extremely gullible public body, but I for one wish it would stop. I don’t personally know any supported artists but I can only suggest that if they can’t make a living from their efforts they might more sensibly consider the idea of getting a regular job, paying taxes like the rest of us, and treating their artistic endeavours as a hobby.

  37. lotocoti

    Being commissioned to belt out the occasional piece of noble statuary or tastefully decorative fresco is a lot different to chiselling funds from unwilling tax payers because you believe your talent for installation pieces made with bodily fluids is transformative art and not to be sullied by grubby commercial considerations.

  38. cynical1

    Knitting a scarf with the ball of wool inserted into your vagina.

    Difficult to excite people these days: tough crowd, seen it all.

    Yes, I believe the next masterpiece is a Hawthorn scarf with the wool inserted in her…..

  39. cynical1

    There isn’t one great artist in Australia.

    How dare you!

    Flannery is a marvelous bullshit artist…

  40. Robbo

    It’s a mistake to believe that government funding of the arts is about art. It’s about politics, and low rent politics at that, because the money is being used to buy political support from people who have better access to the media that the rest of us non arty slobs who have to work for a living. For those with a memory think back to the launch of Labor’s campaign prior to the 1972 federal election. That famous “Its Time” jingle featured the glitterati of the arts world at the time and some of them are still there panting lefty slogans today. Labor has always been good at using public money to buy support and the Liberals have been hopeless at doing the same thing. Those art world bludgers know that the money tap will always be turned full on for them by a Labor government and therefore the best interests of the nation come a bad second to their self interest. What everyone needs to realise is that if an artist is any good they will not need to suck on the public money teat. If they are no good then they should face reality and go and get a job. It’s called the real world.

  41. PoliticoNT

    Knitting a scarf with the ball of wool inserted into your vagina.

    That was at DVAA’s studios in Darwin.

    Feminism (Ding!)
    Class (Ding!)
    Gender (Ding!)
    Race (Who knows, but given the chance it would have been woven in. So that’s a Ding!)
    Pretentious, self-affected ingenue at the centre of it all (Ding!)

    I defend that artist’s right to exhibit her ideas but their wasn’t anything special about it. Just the same old stuff we see everywhere. A leftist social/political spin in art is the norm, not the exception. They’re not radical, they’re just middle class.

  42. candy

    Knitting a scarf with the ball of wool inserted into your vagina.

    No-one in their right mind would call that art. She hangs up pieces of material with menstrual blood smeared on it, as “art”, too. Saw the pictures of it – it’s just nauseating. I wonder if she gets a grant for that? She would be better off with a psychiatric referral.

  43. duncanm


    all it was missing was disability & gay:

    (I got a good laugh out of ‘Queen Gonorrhea’ in that clip)

  44. Squirrel

    I don’t have a particular problem with “artists” burning the dollars of private sponsors to make party political points – provided they are genuinely private (including public companies, which can answer to their shareholders).

    I do, though, have a serious problem with “artists”taking public funds and then engaging in blatantly party political activities through their art – defenders of this practice will want to talk about censorship, freedom of expression etc. etc. but there is nothing stopping such individuals from expressing their views at their own expense (with or without private funding), particularly with Tim Wilson now fighting the good fight on freedom of speech.

  45. Alfonso

    Bricklayers of the World unite……and subsidise Arteests.
    Let them eat cake.

  46. calli

    Oi! Bricklayers are artistes, and fine ones too! 🙂

  47. Walter Plinge

    SOOOOO much shit is talked about starving artists producing great art. Actually much great art of the past was produced by superstars who were well paid in material and prestige rewards, as great actors or directors are now.

    True, but artistic superstars didn’t spring up from nothing. They did the hard yards, as the cliche goes. And, if genuinely talented in both art and self-promotion, and with some luck, became wealthy super-artists. There are doubtless plenty of talented artists who fell by the wayside, and well as plenty of deadwood. The latter only survive these days because of government funding. If they had to attract private funding they couldn’t afford to turn out self-indulgent rubbish that the taxpayer funded arts bodies lap up.

  48. Diogenes

    I often wonder about the “yarts” and “yartists”.

    I know of one guy who agonised for months over a choral setting of the Lords Prayer. It was all very one note one syllable everybody singing chords with the odd harmonic.

    Handel could have knocked out 2 Messiahs, in the time this guy took.

  49. thefrollickingmole

    There was a bit in that article that mentioned only 10% or about 200 million came from private/corporate sponsorship to support the yartz.

    Does that mean the government spends over 2 billion dollars a year on glorified centerelink subsidies for people who hold the right opinions in the eyes of their peers?

    Surely that cant be right, if it is i think we just found how to fund a chunk of the NDIS…

  50. manalive

    There have been struggling artists, wealthy artists, part-time artists (Vermeer, Borodin), artist-entrepreneurs, thoroughly bourgeoise artists, crazy artists, but above all they have been to a man and woman fiercely individualistic nonconformists.
    Artists’ collective action sounds oxymoronic and stinks of the 19th century academies or Soviet Proletkult. Collective action by ‘arts workers’ (those that can do those that can’t teach) on the other hand is not at all surprising.
    “The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time” (On Liberty).

  51. johanna

    Well said, Walter Plinge.

    The area of the arts I know most about is popular music (rock, blues, jazz, electronic etc). I know quite a few practitioners, and have studied the lives of the greats.

    Very good instrumentalists and singers are relatively common. Most of them never become famous, but quite a few make a decent living. For example, our own Tommy Emmanuel is a world class guitarist, and makes a living out of it, but he’s not exactly rolling in money.

    Becoming a superstar is a combination of talent, hard work, chutzpah and luck. Being in the right place at the right time counts at least 50%, I reckon.

    People who decide to become full time artists know this – if not when they start, within a few years (if they have any sense at all).

    It’s not very different from sport, in that regard. Many are called, but few are chosen.

    The intellectual arrogance of those who say that taxes paid by someone who works in a chicken processing plant should be redistributed to them because they are “artists”, and therefore superior beings, needs to be called out at every opportunity.

    There were no grants for the great artists of popular music – and it became a massive industry. Not only that, hundreds of thousands of kids bought instruments and taught themselves to play, often to the consternation of their families and neighbours.

    No amount of government money could have produced so many people who enthusiastically learned to read music and play instruments. Now, that is art in action, producing a public good.

  52. Adrien

    A famous painter who came from a peasant or lowerclass background,? i would be interested to know of someone like that.

    The first name that comes to mind came from a family of peasants who’d made enough to send their son to law school. He begged off and wished instead to be sent to an art academy instead. He is the first artist credited as ‘avant garde’, he was a personal friend of the anarchist Pierre Proudhon, he was imprisoned and finally banished for his political views. Was he a ‘leftist?’ Th answer’s a little trickier than you might think, especially considering that the bulk of commentary herein is based on sterotypes sans any specific examples or demonstrable knowledge.

  53. Adrien

    True, but artistic superstars didn’t spring up from nothing. They did the hard yards, as the cliche goes. And, if genuinely talented in both art and self-promotion,

    Really? So Van Gogh was not a great artist?

  54. johanna

    Not in his lifetime, Adrien, and that’s the point under discussion.

  55. Adrien


    Walter says that great artists are supposedly equally adept at self-promotion. Van Gogh was not good at this.Ergo I must conclude that Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are great artists and Van Gogh was not. I understand the point under discussion and I find these diatribes are marred by ignorance of the subject at hand. Currency Lad for example says that there are no great artists in Australia. Really? How does he know? Artists may or may not be financially successful during their lifetime but their ‘greatness’ is determined by posterity. Great? I dunno but I reckon Louise Hearmann is pretty damn good and if CL’s heard of her I’ll eat my shoes. 🙂

  56. johanna

    Adrien, I’m guessing that you describe yourself as an “artist”, as logic is not your strong suit.

    In Walter’s absence (and if he wishes to correct me, I will of course accept whatever he says) – his point was not about the greatness of artists, but about “superstars” – i.e. those who are commercially very successful in their lifetime. It has nothing whatever to do with whether or not someone became famous post-mortem. He provided no comment on the merits of those artists.

    Get a grip.

  57. Adrien

    I don’t see my lack of logic Joanna.

    Art ‘superstars’ if defined as artists who are massively successful in their lifetime are not the same as quality artists.

    Damien Hirst is an art superstar. He is the most commercially successful artist in history. His career path commenced when he put a dead shark in a tank. He sold this for, from memory, 25000 pounds. Apparently the tank wasn’t put together too well and the shark will decompose and become soup soon enough. Is not this the very type of charlatanism against which people protest here?

    For context please perhaps familiarize yourself with the views on Hirst of the late Robert Hughes….

    And my own modest contribution”

    This is mere sideline btw. The main point I’m making is in the irony entailed in the biography of the son of peasants I mentioned above. The question again is ‘was he a leftist’? Naturally as an anarchist he was but his attitude toward public patronage renders this classification somewhat ironical.

  58. manalive

    Yes, I believe the next masterpiece is a Hawthorn scarf with the wool inserted in her…..

    Originality is necessary but not sufficient.

  59. johanna

    But you attacked Walter for something that he didn’t say. He never said that commercially successful artists are also great artists.

  60. Adrien

    Okay Joanna I grant you your point. But you yourself said that superstardom ‘is a combination of talent, hard work, chutzpah and luck.’ Yes?

  61. johanna

    Yes. What’s your point?

  62. Adrien

    Well Mr Hirst is an art superstar. He has chutzpah certainly. Luck perhaps. But talent? Hard work?

  63. Adrien

    Or Andy Warhol. As a commercial illustrator he worked hard. As an artists he had assistants screen paint images from newspapers onto canvas with deliberate ineptitude. Hard work? Talent?

  64. A Lurker

    Perhaps all of us Conservatives/Libertarians who are creatively minded ought to create an online support group? Make it a place to ‘touch base’ with each other, share ideas, and know that politically and philosophically we’re all generally on the same page.

    For the record I am a self-published independent fantasy author and a sculptor – my sculpting is at the moment at the hobby stage, but my eBook sales would put me in the range of a traditionally published mid-list author.

    If you have Facebook, you will find my work here.

  65. johanna

    Adrien, you shouldn’t allow your bitterness (perhaps about not being recognised) to infect your thoughts.

    People like Hirst and Warhol didn’t spend their days lying on the couch and dreaming. They worked non-stop, including by engaging other people to share their artistic “vision.” Now, the merits of their “vision” are certainly open to debate. But, the world didn’t just come flocking to their door. They are no different from a band which spends months or years touring, involving a lot of boredom and personal discomfort, to establish its name and polish its act.

    Apart from the fact that you don’t like some artists who have made a lot of money, what is the problem?

  66. Adrien


    Please. I am engaging you in an honest dialogue; I am attempting to elucidate an aspect of this issue which has, insofar as I’m aware, not come to light thus far. You are making assumptions: that I am an artist because of so-called logical inconsistency – if this was the qualification that makes an artist every pothead slacker subsisting in the carparks of our outer suburban wasteland convenience stores would be an ‘artist’; also you assume that I am an artist or consider myself such and am bitter because unsuccessful yet I have made no such declaration nor indicated in any way anything that contributes any evidence supporting such.

    Mr Warhol didn’t spend his days on a couch dreaming but scheming. His work, perceptive as it was did not involve much by the way of work. Mr Hirst likewise exhibits ‘work’ that is not such in the sense that Rembrandt’s was his. In both cases they came up with notions that made for jazzy slogans. Yet you say they worked their guts out. Okay. Doubtless they did and do consistently apply themselves. So why are these gentleman worthy as artists but others who likewise display no especial talent or application in the ancient arts of drawing, sculpture and painting not so? Is it because they had/have a market but the myriad dipshits who live on the grandiose dolecheque otherwise known as the grant system do not?

    Is that your position? Please again, and without unfounded psychological speculations, is that your position? And kindly note that I have not stated mine.

  67. johanna

    Nobody said that they are worthy as artists. Merely that they are successful, and they worked hard. I still don’t understand what you are arguing about.

  68. Adrien

    Evasion Joanna.

    I still don’t understand what you are arguing about.

    Learn to read.

    Michael Oakeshott made a point about the similarity between libertarian and Marxists that still remains unappreciated almost a century later. Jay-sus.

  69. jupes

    Or Andy Warhol.

    Warhol was a visionary. Sure his cans of soup don’t compare artistically to the Mona Lisa but he created (or tried to create) an artistic experience.

    His Exploding Plastic Inevitable events combined a ground breaking band (the Velvet Underground), movies (often projected onto the band), a light show (the first ever in rock) and dance. He created art as an experience. He was original, unlike those hopeless twits who followed.

  70. Poor Old Rafe

    I think my late wife Kilmeny Niland was a genuine artist but she didn’t get grants and she would have been destitute if she depended on the commercial success of her work. She couldn’t even get a gallery to take her work in Paddington (Sydney).

    By comparison, Warhol and Hirst were essentially showmen with a bit of talent for drawing and painting.

  71. Poor Old Rafe

    Jupes, thanks for your comment that went up while I was writing mine, I will grant that Warhol was probably a visionary genius in multimedia, my view relates to the art and craft of drawing and painting.

    The problem is to sort out the achievement of the pioneer from the derivative works of the followers who get on the bandwagon.

  72. calli

    Rafe…I know these books! How beautiful! And my favourite, of course, is this.

    Talent often goes unrewarded in this world (a trite truism, sorry) but work that gives delight to little ones and sparks their imaginations continues. I see the delight in my grandson’s eyes as we enjoy a picture book, and it’s a precious thing.

  73. bons

    My favourite arts-fascist term is ‘confronting’ which is defined as ‘little people could not possibly comprehend the nuanced nature of this creative endeavour, therefore are disqualified from comenting’.
    We sadly fund all forms of bizarre training dressed-up as education so I’m content to pay for arts education. But why do artists expect us to continue paying them after graduation. Worse, they demand that we pay them for work for which there is no nominated product, nor performance indicators. Bloody racket.

  74. bons

    And don’t get me started on the bloody public art gallery trough.

  75. jupes

    The problem is to sort out the achievement of the pioneer from the derivative works of the followers who get on the bandwagon.

    Exactly Rafe. Warhol was a pioneer with multimedia, however once he’d done it there wasn’t much left to achieve in the genre it seems. Those who have tried to follow in his footsteps have produced total shit.

    I mainly like Warhol because he promoted the Velvet Underground. One of my favourite bands who, like Warhol, were totally original.

  76. john constantine

    i did once hear a leftie confiding among friends on the radio national ‘we are us’ network that unemployment benefits were widely considered within the right circles to be the ‘non-specific arts grant’.

  77. Markos

    I’m a professional artist who went to art school and did creative writing courses also I’m self funded and never been on a grant.
    It’s easy to blame the artist for the quality being produced in grant schemes but we seem to forget that these artist must compete against a board who decide who should be accepted. Sometimes these boards are corrupt and the choice of artists maybe based on the fact that person might be related to someone of the board or is a friend of a friend.
    That said there are some great institutions that are a real blessing for artists and writers, for example there is a play house that is funded by the sin tax on cigarettes they earn an automatic grant each year and allow new playwrites to not only perform their plays for free, but offer script analysis for free. This kind of service is invaluable for both artists, actors and writers and allows all to be exposed.

    Seriously many of our Oscar winning actors have used the grant system.

  78. johanna

    Must agree that Warhol, who was not a great individual artist in the way that Van Gogh was, was nevetheless a pretty good artist in the sense that he captured the moment, and took a lot of people with him. And yes, I like the Velvet Underground, too.

    But Warhol, whatever you think of him, wasn’t fed by government grants. And that is the issue being discussed here. Jimi Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Albert Namatjira, Slim Dusty, Billie Holliday, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones – owed not a dime to government grants.

    And as I said above, the popular musicians encouraged a huge number of people to learn music, pick up an instrument, even form a band.

  79. Notafan

    Rafe, your wife’s work was fantastic.
    Just wanted to mention that Picasso was from a peasant family in Malaga, who displayed a precocious talent and was classically trained. His first work, at age thirteen is displayed at Monsarrat.
    I am currently in Assisi being blown away by Giotto. Back then it seems artists were apprenticed and spend many years developing their skills. Not their skills in completing grant requests either. The Church as well as nobles provided many commissions. In Catalonia during the Romanesque period groups of travelling artists visited villages to obtain work painting the frescoes in little churches.
    Taxpayers funding, except for specific commissions should stop. If it is good enough for someone to wish to purchase, then fine, otherwise get a different job.

  80. Adrien

    Not their skills in completing grant requests either. The Church as well as nobles provided many commissions

    And Joanna was just saying somethin’ about logical inconsistency…. considering the lateral view you have of the word ‘grant’ you must be making’ Michelangelo’s grave shimmer with pure envy.

    (Psssst Picasso’s dad did not grow turnips for a living).

  81. Adrien

    Joanna’s Not Here
    Translation Serices
    Document #1

    Jimi Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Albert Namatjira, Slim Dusty, Billie Holliday, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones – owed not a dime to government grants.

    Should read:

    Jimi Hendrix, Kraftwerk, Albert Namatjira, Slim Dusty, Billie Holliday, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones – were not, ahem artists. ‘Cept Albert Namatjira o’ course and he’s not an artist he’s one of Andrew Bolt’s best friends. 🙂

    And that is the issue being discussed here.

    And in furtherance of this learned discourse seeking of course quality in art and not some vendetta against a group that didn’t obey their masters let’s just remind people that Warhol and Hirst were shite and also owed not a dime to government grants. 🙂

  82. Adrien

    I mainly like Warhol because he promoted the Velvet Underground.

    And his wig and his sunglasses and David Bowie playing him in a movie and…………………….

    Hey man I’ve been set free to find a new illusion.

  83. Adrien

    Sorry Edie Sedgewick too. 😉 She makes it concise and clear that Hojanna ain’t here.

  84. johanna

    Musicians are not artists? Bizarre.

    As for the rest, it seems that whatever substance(s) Adrien prefers have taken over. I can’t make any sense of it.

  85. jupes

    I can’t make any sense of it.

    Adrien – the Tracy Emin of the Cat.

  86. Adrien

    I can’t make any sense of it.

    Well ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to soothe the ghost of electricty’s highway blues.

    Adrien – the Tracy Emin of the Cat.

    A’right Jupes that’s it!!!! Sabres at dawn – Really!!!!

  87. Foggyfig

    At present in the West we have the Sculptures by the Sea. I thought I would check out where sponsorship comes from. Had to wonder how many artists hate Gina Rhinehardt – Hancock Prospecting is the Principal Sponsor 😀

    Some of the sculptures are impressive. Others are a worry 😉

  88. Adam


    I do the occasional bit of writing for a living and after reading every single one of your posts I can honestly say that I have no idea what your argument is. Perhaps you should state your own position which you kindly noted that you have not yet done. That way some of us could have a least a smidgen of an idea about what the fuck you’re talking about.

  89. Markos

    An artist friend of mine is currently organising a wild life art space in the Grampians. Right now he has major sponsors from both corporate and government. If I remember rightly – the State Government is seriously considering supporting the project too. Not only will this museum support local artists, but encourage short term economic growth in a struggling area with construction and there will be long term benefits to tourism as well.
    Without Government support though grants this will never be possible.
    Point is, it’s easy to be critical to the grant system because nonsense like an ‘artist’ being paid 10k for painting trees blue, but there are many projects not mentioned by news outlets that are supporting our economy (especially in outback regions) through grants.
    More info at

  90. johanna

    I guess that Adrien is still sleeping it off.

  91. Adrien

    Perhaps you should state your own position which you kindly noted that you have not yet done.

    Fair enough. My position isn’t concrete. I’m not entirely in disagreement with most of the commentary here however I feel that very few people making comments actually know or care about art.

    The line appears to be that mediocre art is produced by public patronage and that excellence is produced by market forces. While I, as an individual basically agree with this proposition I don’t think that it’s that simple. I would however argue that while Warhol’s market orientated art had relevance whilst such stuff as canvases stained by the urine of male prostitutes is not. Could we agree about that?

    In short I do have an argument. I want it to be constructive and merely wish to sort out those who know about art and care (eg Rafe, Markos, Jupes et al) from those who, like Bolsheviks, merely regard it as an ideological battlefield.

    Also a lot of my most recent comments were directed at the third runner up in the Ms Gramaphone Mind Competition of 2014. I wish her all the fog, amphetamines and pearls she can eat. 🙂

  92. Notafan

    I would argue that no art is produced by ‘ grants ‘ that do not require the grant recipient to produce a work of some description that becomes the property of the public.
    For example a grant to support someone write a fantasy novel that remains her property alone. That mediocre ‘artists ‘ can receive 30 years of public funding without demonstrating any commercial success is just wrong. The artist is no more entitled to public subsidy that the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker. I’m sick of the artistic temperament, the starving in a garret and the sense of entitlement.

  93. PoliticoNT

    Just spent the weekend up in Bendigo, looking at the new BAG (Bendigo Art Gallery) show and extension. Nice work, nice space. Staff came across as a bit entitled nobility. When I asked for some information on some the work it was well, we used to have some information, but we don’t now, so please, fuck off and let me just concentrate on looking at myself in this mirror.

    Nice gallery though.

  94. Markos

    Apart from a candlestick maker butchers and bakers sell consumable goods with daily customers. An artist make ‘luxury goods’ and if their lucky sell maybe 2-5 paintings a year. On top of that art supplies are ridiculously expensive. For example: I could easily spend $1000 on materials for a painting I work on for six months and sell it in a gallery for $5000, then suffer a huge commission fee on the sale. At the end of the show I’d be lucky to make a full profit and forget about the countless hours going into design and making the artwork. You don’t get that in any other ‘industry.’ (This is an example I don’t do gallery shows, but the costs are not exaggerated.)

    But we’re talking about grants. I’ve given two examples of successful grant systems so far, (success gauged by economic and cultural bonuses.) Here is another:
    Melbourne is known for it’s street art, with lane ways open as ‘free zones’ for graffiti artists. The City of Melbourne Council offers minor grants to these artists to paint public murals. Since doing so Melbourne has become known as one of the best street art cities in the world. They’ve turned the unsightly intestines of the city into tourist zones – bringing revenue into the city and also the surrounding boutique shops, bars, cafes and galleries etc. It may not be that any of these graffiti artists are commercial successes but they have a impact on the overall economy and cultural status of the city.

  95. Markos

    Also if an artist is on grants for 30 years they are either one of three things:
    1. Good at what they do, like the artist Peter Corlett who does many war memorials and public works. (often sponsored by foundations that include some government grant.)
    2. Part of a corrupt system, which is unlikely because these grants are hard to get and the councils who give them change often.
    3. Part of an organisation like the free play house I mentioned in my first post who offer services to aspiring artists etc.

    It seems to me that many of you are bagging out the system that many artists find to hard to be part of and avoid it, like I do. Compared to NZ our arts grants and support are quite limited. It also seems that many of you simply do not understand art, nor how it actually functions. Yes there is bad art, but there is also good stuff being done and that allot of these grants go into arts related services not single artists.

  96. Notafan

    I was referring to the big umbrella writers etc who seem to be able to access grants, and it appears to be a situation of who you know. I’m pretty sure candlestick makers are artists these days. I own a small business btw, hasn’t made enough to cover the shop rent for six months, so I work a second job. There are lots of small businesses that only get one or two major commissions per year if they are lucky. I don’t know why people can call themselves ‘artists’ and expect to be subsidised by the taxpayer, irrespective of their talent, which has to be measurable by something. If there isn’t a market for your book or sculpture or whatever then do it as a hobby and get a different job.

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