At the start of March, I was at a packed exhibition opening at Beinart Art Gallery in Brunswick. At the time COVID-19 was in the news but not in Australia. There were so many people at the exhibition it was like rush hour on a Sydney Road tram. I thought that the crowd was such a potential vector for all kinds of diseases and that this art party would be over.
Along with the weeks of bushfires, and months of lockdown, among the many things that I didn’t expect from the year:
… I didn’t expect that in the whole year I’ve seen about a dozen exhibitions, plus one art fair – Can’t Do Tomorrow. In other years I might see a dozen exhibitions in a single fortnight.
… I didn’t expect to be writing obituaries for Melbourne artists, Janet Beckhouse and Adrian Mauriks. I realised that they needed to be written as the newspapers wouldn’t be covering it.
… I didn’t expect that people would be so interested in public art this year. Part of this was due to people walking more as exercise during lockdowns and consequently seeing more public sculpture. It was also due to a post-colonial interest in public statues became a mainstream political issue this year, and I am so glad that it did. Statues that celebrate colonialists and other racists were removed in Belgium, Canada, NZ, South Africa, UK, US, Martinique, Cameroon, as well as, in other places. No statues or memorials have been removed in Australia. It is one of the many disgraceful and disgusting features of Australia and symptomatic of this conservative country’s many deep-rooted problems. (See my post on the Statue Wars 2020.)
And amongst everything that I didn’t expect, the least surprising events of the year was that the arts and tertiary education in Australia were being abandoned in the COVID-19 crisis. Gambling and Pascal’s wager (religions) are more important, for they were given more support and exemptions during lockdown; a position contrary to all medical evidence. And the state premier, Daniel Andrews cutting down more trees, including one of the Djab Wurrung Trees, in an egregious act of cultural vandalism. Giving less reason for optimism than a Leonard Cohen song.
Now that I almost at the end of the year I have no plans to write any more blog posts until the new year. So, finally here are a few photos to sum up the year.