Monday, July 30, 2012

The rumour mill

Here’s a good rumour for you. It comes complete with an A++ feels-right rating, but no publishable source, although some talk a few months ago make it ring true. 

A rich person (or persons) has signed a cheque that will pay for the construction of a new standalone National Art Gallery next to Te Papa if the Government agrees to pick up all operational and staffing costs. 

In most fields this possibility would start a storm of speculation, media blitzing of Te Papa execs and lobby pressure on ministers. In the arts we tend to have a more let-sleeping-possibilities-lie approach. You know this already from the Walters Prize debacle. The allegation that hardly any of the jurors saw any of the exhibitions they had proposed didn’t even cause a ripple, let alone a statement from the Auckland Art Gallery (which makes you think it is probably true). Hard to imagine the selection of four new All Blacks being based on games none of the selectors had seen not creating a nationwide debate of WTF proportions in the media, in the pubs and in the office. Face it, families would be at war. In the arts anyone under challenge simply says 'no comment' on the reasonable assumption that tough questions will go away. 

This passivity is probably part of the reason why the arts get so little media interest. When journalists can't get a comment from anyone and are overwhelmed by boosterism, who's surprised we are relegated to the entertainment pages. And all this at a time when there are so many opportunities to move up a notch with the Auckland Art Gallery facing a fundamental shift in direction, Te Papa requiring 30 senior managers to apply for only 15 available jobs in a restructure and now the whisper of chance to see a new National Art Gallery. That's a lot to talk about.