Tracey Moffatt chosen for Venice 2017

Photographer and filmmaker Tracy Moffatt has been chosen as Australia’s sole representative at the Australian Pavilion (pictured above) at the 2017 Venice Biennale in an exhibition to be curated by Natalie King.

The announcement was made this morning by art collector and retailer Naomi Milgrom who was appointed Australia’s Venice Biennale commissioner in September to oversee the choice of artist.

Moffatt, 55, made her name in the late ’80s with her lush photography that played with black stereotypes and which later saw her short films shown at Cannes in the early ’90s.

In a statement from the Australia Council (which oversees and pays for Australia’s representation in Venice) her work was described as looking at: “Themes such as struggles between individuals, childhood cruelties in suburban life, the toughness of life on the ‘frontier’,  the subversion of stereotypes and relations between black and white Australians are apparent in her works. Referencing the artist’ss own life and experiences, Moffatt’s work deals with the human condition in all its complexities”.

It continued: “Since her first solo exhibition at the Australian Centre for Photography in Sydney in 1989, she has exhibited extensively in museums all over the world. She first gained significant critical acclaim when her short film Night Cries was selected for official competition at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. Her first feature film, beDevil, was also selected for Cannes in 1993. In 1997, she was invited to exhibit in the Aperto section of the Venice Biennale. A major exhibition of Moffatt’s work was later held at the DIA Center for the Arts in New York in 1997/98 which consolidated her international reputation.

Curator Natalie King is a chief curator of Biennial Lab at the City of Melbourne; senior research fellow, Victorian College of the Arts, The University of Melbourne, and creative associate of  the Naomi Milgrom Foundation’s MPavilion.

The selection of Australia’s Venice representative — arguably the highest honour bestowed on an Australian artist — always creates argument, debate and often controversy in Australia’s small arts community.

Related story:

Artist John Kelly on the 2015 Venice Biennale and the myopia of Australia’s arts leaders 


6 responses to “Tracey Moffatt chosen for Venice 2017

  1. Following on from my last comment, I want to report from the field in Berlin. By the way I’m sure many of you are sick of me commenting BUT I feel its an artist/ individual’s duty to engage in “activism”. I came of age in the 80s when artists were allowed far more input than now in this age of the blanket “professionalism” of the arts and arts management. This is why contemporary art is so boring now, behind the smoke and mirrors of endless Biennials, Art Fairs and “pluralism” is a shocking homogeneity: really all Contemporary Art looks the same.

    So my report is about a new exhibition we are having in Berlin from a self confessed “Lego weirdo”. This guy started very young and was one of the first to post vids on Youtube making complex lego works and also commentary on various Lego sets. This was the 90s. His Youtube name is Bruce Wayne Lego and Toyhansolo. He estimates that overall he has garnered 35 Million hits to his vids but he had to take many down as others were “stealing” them to get the credit points from Youtube. He no longer makes vids as he says “younger kids do it far better than him now”. Our Lego artist is a well known and respected member of the international online Lego community. Such communities operate in exactly the same way as the art world.

    Why I mention this in relation to the Venice arguments is that after discussing things with Phillip it is obvious how OLD FASHIONED Australia’s relationship with Venice is. Really the whole Australian art world operates as an elitist “drip down” heirachical realm that is really going out of style. The monied arty are desperate to cling onto their power and what they see as the rich person’s right to dictate cultural tastes (please remember Malcolm Turnbull’s characterisation of Australian artists as “viscously ungrateful”) BUT its actually all over for them in Zeitgeist terms. If one of Phillip’s vids gets 650,000 hits that makes Venice sort of meaningless. I myself have a joint vid on Vimeo that at last I knew had 30,000 hits. So why do I even worry about what a tired bunch of stuck up wealthy people and coddled public servants think is right.

    Artists like our Lego Phillip are the real new Post Digital artists. Artists are now consumer/ producers and entrepreneurs. Young people today have already built there own online communities and ways of networking. In many respects let’s just leave the old fart rich people to themselves and the small gang of disgracefully compliant “favoured” artists to themselves. In reality these people only talk to themselves. Have any of you been to Venice with the Aussies? Its sad, they all spend their time with other Aussies. Venice is the Bali of Australian art!

    I wish artists and individuals would understand that they are not powerless but can be very powerful. This is the age of Social Media. ACTUP!!

  2. Part of the problem is also the fact that Australia Council changed the rules for choosing Venice. It used to be by curator/ artist application and now the choosing is by insider art world star chamber. So any innovative ideas for the Pavilion will immediately not get a look in and the same mindset of the same people chooses the same artists from the same same small group of 2 or maybe 3 dealer galleries.

  3. Naomi Milgrom states: “The Venice Biennale is Australia’s key private-public arts partnership and through our collaborative efforts, we are able to maximise international profile and opportunities for Tracey Moffatt and the broader Australian contemporary visual arts sector.”

    Look I am all for Tracey and her work but…I’m sorry Naomi you are dead wrong. I work in the Euro arts hub Berlin and I can tell you Australia does not feature AT ALL in any discourse there. The artists at Venice make no difference whatsoever to helping build a profile in Berlin. Google Search Fiona Hall and one will see no substantive press or reviews. Compare this with NZ’s choice of Simon Denny who got amazing press and kudos. Why? Because Denny was the right choice and his works were VERY Contemporary. I do hope Tracey can work the same magic, I have faith Tracey can. BUT its about time Australia Council and the small gang of wealthy people who “run” Venice owned up to the fact that Venice does nothing at all for Australia’s artists. The last Commissioner Simon Mordant stated that Venice was important because all the OS private art collections he visited had works purchased from the Venice Biennial. This just proves that the monied classes who “own” Venice only judge success in art by money. OzCo and these people think that all Australia needs to do is pump yet more cultural product into the international art mainstream and somehow “hey presto” Australia gains just like investing money in their super accounts. WRONG! We need to think about the overall image of Australian Art overseas. The International art world wants new ideas not more product.

    It is soul destroying being an Australian artist. The ineptitude of our supposed art experts is astounding but when these art “worthies” are in Venice they all spend time with each other. Venice is the Australian art world’s Bali. I’ve been with them all, the echo chamber of their own provincial babble is deafening. And if you think I’m wrong just look at the fiasco of the NGA’s Australia exhibition at the Royal Academy, London. Also did any of the “worthies” who participated in that wasteful junket known as the 2003 Face Up exhibition of Australian art in Berlin ever wonder later if the whole thing was in any way successful? No. I can report that Face Up did absolutely nothing for Australian art in Berlin. We can judge its lack of success by the fact that only one artist has any sort of profile in Berlin after the exhibition and a very tiny one at that!

    Australian art is a small, small world where the same people move in the same jobs for decades. Where a narrow mindset is totally oblivious to any criticism or new thoughts. In many, many ways the Turnbull Govt is right in taking away funding. It is often a waste of resources. Venice should be abandoned to the wealthy few just as Opera and ballet should be only funded by those who use it and not public funds. We have to pay for our Taylor Swift tickets. Rich people have more than enough money to fully subsidize their pleasures. Their gifts are mainly tax minimization anyway and from businesses who pay no tax anyway!!!

  4. I suppose what I am saying is we have totally lost any of the 60s, 70s early 80s concepts of alternative thinking for Art. Instead we have totally known and standard cultural product with no hint of risk taking or experimentation. This totally suits both Government, the Public Service and the Wealthy who all want the most risk adverse outcomes possible. No thematic group exhibitions; no challenges whatsoever. NO INNOVATION to use some Malcolm Turnbull blather. In the end there is no real excitement. Tracey Moffatt should have has the Venice gig 15 years ago. So what does that tell us?

  5. Dear OzCo
    I want to comment on the selection process for the Venice Biennial. I am happy that Tracey finally got the gig, why it didn’t happen far earlier is a moot point. BUT I offer another “take” on the whole process altogether. I suggest that we take a different look at the issue by “upending” it. Let’s start at the beginning again. The Australia Council is a Govt funded body set up to serve the Australian people. It is run by public servants: people who are Govt waged. It is Government Art. Somehow a structure has developed that mirrors the public service in that the people who are supposedly served by this Govt funded (publicly funded) body FORGET that it is the public that it is meant to be serving. Somehow the Govt waged art people think that artists are “with them” in promoting the arts and culture. That we are in the same boat. So artists get treated as if they too are somehow Govt employees.This is not the case, artists are sole traders who pay tax, Artists are members of the public and therefore should be treated “above” the needs of the public service.

    Venice is clearly an IN HOUSE cozy arrangement between compliant public servants, rich people who want to be seen to give money even though it most probably tax minimization and a couple of high profile and RICH private dealer galleries. So here we have an ancien regime aristocratic structure running a publicly funded body in what is meant to be the Democratic era! Hiding under some dubious rubric of “excellence” are the same people people making the same decisions from the same galleries. How is this democratic? It of course isn’t. What the Australia Council promotes is Hegemony and Privilege. Now we are told Venice is a Private/ Public partnership. I say let the Private sector fund it all and use any public funds elsewhere. Even auction of the whole Venice gravy train to the highest Corporate bidder and make a profit instead of all us plebs having to put up with the banal platitudes of rich people.
    Basically I am saying that the Australia Council and the entire Australian Government Art world perpetuates an old and outmoded hegemonic structure that is ethically very wrong. It’s as if the Arts in Australia has not moved since the 19th Century. I suggest everyone take a good look at themselves. Artists (except for the select few) are treated like plebs!

  6. Yay!!!!! Finally!!! Ms Moffatt gets what she should havegot yeas ago! I remember first being in Berlin in 2001 and people would ask me seriously: “Doesn’t Australia like Tracey Moffatt?”. This was wen Tracey had just become internationally famous and it seemed a no brainer to haveher as Australia’s rep at Venice. But no the people who choose such things kept choosing others to varying degrees of success.

    So Congrats Tracey. Long overdue and so well deserved.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Newsletter Signup