2008 was The International Year of the Potato and remarkably this was noted with potato sculptures and the use of potatoes in art. At the start of the year many artists were mourning the passing of the Polaroid.
This year Moreland Sculpture Show escaped the annual vandalism that has plagued it for several years.
Christine Abrahams Gallery closed at the end of 2008. Christine Abrahams Gallery was a commercial gallery in Richmond founded in 1983 by Christine Abrahams and continued after her death in 1994 by her son, Guy Abrahams.
Street art truly became part of the art establishment with a street art exhibition at the Tate Modern, London, the first dedicated urban art auction at Bonhams, the 5th Melbourne Stencil Festival and the opening of another street art dedicated gallery, Famous When Dead. However, street art continues to have official opposition. The introduction of the draconian Graffiti Prevention Act (2007) in Victoria has so far had little effect, as the Victorian police are proving saner than the politicians.
The major culture battle for Australia in 2008 was the witch-hunt against Bill Henson. Australia loves censorship: video games, the internet, art exhibitions. NSW Attorney General John Hatzistergos is a fan of censorship; he supports all kinds of censorship across all kinds of media. Hatzistergos proposed the ill-fated, ill-conceived and failed New South Wales Internet Censorship Bill 2001. Now Hatzistergos has got his way with more censorship of art exhibitions with the National Classification Scheme to “vet” selected art exhibitions. Australia is now similar to the Islamic Republic of Iran where a government appointed censorship board must approve all art exhibitions.
On these issues the two brands of Australian politics once have the same position, anti-graffiti and pro-witch-hunt. The current ALP government has been as conservative on cultural issues as the old Liberal/National government. Even though the public is divided on these issues the politicians are united demonstrating the pointlessness of Australian democracy.
Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett proved to be an especially unpopular with both visual artists and musicians, due mostly to his position on Bill Henson and his announced closure of the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). Late in the year Garrett back-flipped on the ANAM and introduced the Resale Royalty Right for Visual Artists Bill 2008 in a desperate attempt to win back some lost ground.
Finally I’d like to thank everyone who left comments on the blog and to everyone who answered my emails and helped make this blog possible.