Oct 13, 2014

Art Industry Ethics: declining?

Selfie at my exhibition Walking Women - Standing Monash

On one of my many trips to the United Kingdom I noticed an advertisement at a tube station, it said in very bold letters, "What we need is Standards", it made me smile and think how typically British! on closer inspection I noticed that it was an ad for The Evening Standard newspaper. But the idea that there should be a high level of ethical behavior, or standards in the artworld often haunts me because I get the distinct feeling that its getting worse rather than better.

Maybe its so bad that its time to create an industry watchdog or ombudsman/woman.

Unlike many of the articles about art ethics that concentrate on issues like plagiarism and shonky money stuff, my beefs are much more basic. At the top of my list of complaints is organisations that publish highly detailed briefs or lists of criteria for various projects or grants but then substantially ignore them during the selection process. Outside the artworld if a government agency advertised for a fleet of small cars and awarded the contract to a supplier of tractors or horses all hell would breakout and I'm sure the other tenderers would have some recourse to law to correct the mistake. 

Any prescriptive criteria list can be and should be judged objectively; claims that assessors have been less than diligent or lacking in professionalism should be taken to an independent arbiter. The simple way around this not to pretend that there is an object criteria list but admit that the process is entirely based on the subjective opinions of the expert panels.

OK over a lifetime in art you do see some pretty nasty things, like the curator who notices, after the published deadline, that they haven't got enough important artists applying for their project, so they ring up a few key people and promise them inclusion - not really the right way to do things Eh! But in some cases it gets even worse a year or so down the track, the artist that "helped" the curator out applies for inclusion in the current show, only to receive a blunt, group letter, knock-back. My view here is that common decency would require the curator to provide the artist with a decent and honest explanation, especially if the curator had sought and gained favours from the artist in the intervening period.

I'd go further in this case and suggest that a decent curator would personally contact the artist prior to application time and suggest (nicely) that the artist would be well advised not to apply this time. 

My personal big beef is emails, people who want something from you will reply instantly but as soon as you are no longer of interest to them they very rudely ignore you. It is strange that often, the most import, busiest people are the best mannered - I can't work that one out.

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