Monday, March 11, 2013

Patron padrone

Even in its wildest dreams the politicos couldn’t have imagined that their plea for philanthropists to take over arts funding would result in packs of patrons roaming the streets of Venice acting as supporters of team Culbert and team George.

New Zealand has exhibited at the Venice Biennale since 2001 and each outing has been backed by a group of patrons as well as Creative NZ. This year turns out that John and Jo Gow (Connells Bay Sculpture Park on Waiheke Island and also NZ at Venice patrons ) and dealer Rebecca Hamid of RH Gallery in Nelson have launched a competitive patronage package. This one is funding Darryn George to show in the curated exhibition Personal Structures exhibition at the Palazzo Bembo in Venice. It seems to have much the same trappings as the NZ at Venice one for Bill Culbert (editioned George prints for sale at $2,500, $5,000 and $5,000+, tours in Venice etc) but of course with Culbert as the official NZ representative his comes with Venice gold, the almost-impossible-to-get Vernissage tickets. 
So how much is this new group trying to raise? You’d have to guess you'd say - a lot. Showing at Venice is not cheap even at the edges. The PalazzoBembo where George has been invited to show (Judy Millar was there at the last Biennale and Scott Eady will join George in this one) offers its spaces at $2,200 per square meter. When you add making the work (a ‘fabricated room’ to fit within the existing space along with ‘a high tech lighting system’) freight, airfares, accommodation etc George's budget must be in the region of $150,000. That’s a lot of money to suck out of a well that the Culbert patrons must have thought was theirs for the drinking. How this will all be negotiated with George’s other dealers is anybody’s guess. Look out for more of these patron/dealer/artist mixes as biennales, art fairs and artist projects expand in scale and ambition and the costs escalate.