Affectionate vandal shows how tough it is for galleries to protect exhibits

Darned cheek: the 19th century Narcissus with the vandalism exposed on his buttock. The 19th century Narcissus with the vandalism exposed on his buttock.
Nanjing Night Net

It probably seemed like an innocent peck on the cheek. But the Art Gallery of NSW took a dim view of the visitor who kissed a 19th-century statue of Narcissus with red lipstick, leaving a large stain on its buttock.

”Vandalised” was the word used to describe the kiss, which occurred in January 2012, one week after another visitor pulled the nose off a statue of a clown by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.

In another attack in June 2013, an 11th-century sandstone sculpture of a female torso was spat on.

These acts of vandalism are among 89 reported incidents of damage to artworks at the Art Gallery of NSW over the past three years.

Documents obtained by Fairfax Media following a freedom of information request show that works in the gallery’s collection have been vandalised by visitors, damaged by staff and harmed during functions held at NSW’s leading public art institution.

At a function in May 2013, a painting by indigenous artist Emily Kam Ngwarray was splashed with food, according to the incident report:

”A tomato canape wielding visitor lost control of her topping, which flew across the barriers in front of the work … Several dried droplets of red material were located on the work at the lower edge right of centre.”

The report stated there was no apparent damage to the painting but noted that it was possible that not all the spilt food had been removed.

An incident report relating to Cy Twombly’s Three Studies from the Temeraire, for which the gallery paid $4.5 million in 2004, stated it had been damaged on display and noted the presence of ”surface dirt”.

Damage to paintings by Brett Whiteley and Picasso, in both cases by children, were also reported.

Whiteley’s The Balcony 2 was ”touched by [a] boy who left a palm print in the dusty surface of the painting,” according to a February 2013 report. In November 2013, it was reported that the frame surrounding Picasso’s Nude in a Rocking Chair was ”probably scratched accidentally by a child, not by an adult”.

The gallery’s director of collections, Suhanya Raffel, said most of the 1.3 million who visited the gallery each year respected and enjoyed the collection. ”The majority of visitor incidents are fairly minor, accidental and not malicious – often the result of curiosity, which we do not consider as vandalism,” she said.

Sydney College of the Arts dean Colin Rhodes said the best way to protect artworks would be to have a guard in every room of the gallery.

”A human presence who is looking after the space, that’s easily the best way of doing things,” he said. ”The trouble with cameras is they might catch everything, but it’s after the event.”

However, excessive security risked alienating visitors. ”Art is made for people to enjoy. The further away it is from an audience, the less easy it is for them to enjoy and understand,” Professor Rhodes said.

In Victoria, the NGV last year admitted a 2000-year-old statue from its collection was damaged when it was dropped from a forklift. It has also admitted that one of its new acquisitions, a glass bauble-encrusted stuffed deer, had overheated in its front window.

The Roman marble figure from the first century BC, Archaistic Kore, believed to be valued at $1 million to $2 million, was dropped and smashed while it was being moved.

Artworks at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra have also been vandalised and damaged by staff, with 23 incidents reported in 2012 and 2013.

Among the artworks damaged were paintings by Fred Williams, Roy Lichtenstein and Arthur Boyd. Several sculptures in the gallery’s collection were vandalised with graffiti, including one that had ”Josh Latif Rules” scratched into it.

An NGA spokesman said risk assessments were carried out on how to display art, but the gallery had no plans to beef up security.

Gallery staff and catering contractors at the Art Gallery of NSW have also caused serious damage to artworks.

In May 2011, a gallery painter driving a forklift ”knocked” a table that then hit the installation Turns in Arabba by Hany Armanious, who represented Australia at the 2011 Venice Biennale.

”Many objects fell over resulting in damage to 14 components as well as damage to the wooden cabinet,” the report noted.

Several artworks have been damaged when falling off the walls of the Art Gallery of NSW after the failure of velcro hanging mechanisms.

Human error was identified in several reports, such as an April 2012 incident relating to Nam June Paik’s Kaldor Candle. The report criticised gallery staff.

”Without proper instructions or approval for treating the artwork, installation staff removed wax residue from the horizontal TV screens using metal scrapers, a commercial spray, adhesive remover and cloths,” the report said. ”The curator had not directed them to do so, nor did they seek advice from conservation prior to cleaning.”

Similarly, the lid of a 19th-century ivory vase was dropped ”during a hasty deinstallation”, according to a 2012 report. Another artwork was damaged after it was installed upside down and displayed in the wrong position for ”a few weeks”.

But Ms Raffel said damage caused to artworks by staff was rare.

”In the period of the three years we had 89 incidents, of which only five were related to staff,” she said. ”Our gallery staff have moved thousands of artworks in that three-year period.”

Ms Raffel said it was rarely possible to calculate the cost of damage to artworks as repairs were conducted in house. Moving artworks and erecting barriers to keep visitors at a distance were among the actions taken to protect the collection.

The Art Gallery of NSW is a venue-for-hire for corporate events and hosts functions at which food and alcohol are served. But champagne, canapes and canvases do not always mix.

At a function in May 2013, a bag of ice fell off a trolley, splashing water onto Peter Powditch’s Seascape II painting. The incident report noted an extensive number of stains on the work and suggested that the ”placement of a painting outside the lift on ground level may not be a safe position for a large-scale work”.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Voters’ support for republic hits 20-year low

Support for a republic has dwindled, even in younger Australians.Backing for an Australian republic has collapsed to a 20-year low, with just 39.4 per cent of Australians saying they support a republic.
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Support was lowest among older Australians and Generation Y voters, with people aged 35 to 65 most supportive of Australia abandoning the monarchy.

An exclusive ReachTEL poll of more than 2100 Australians, conducted on Thursday night for Fairfax, shows 41.6 per cent oppose the country becoming a republic, and 19 per cent had no opinion on the issue.

Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy national convener David Flint said the findings were a ”time bomb” for the republican movement, with support among 18 to 35 year olds at 35.6 per cent. More people in this age bracket oppose a republic than support it. Only people aged over 65 had a lower rate of support (30.7 per cent) for Australia becoming a republic.

”That is a time bomb, I believe, for republicans, because you don’t have that investment for the future,” Professor Flint said.

Not only were young people disinterested in a republic, he believed, they were favourable to the monarchy partly because of the star power of the ”young royals”, Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

But Geoff Gallop, chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, said: ”Polls will come and go, but we’ve been encouraged by the support we’ve been getting, and our campaign will continue.” Mr Gallop said higher support for a republic among Generation X and baby boomer voters could be explained by them having participated in the 1999 referendum, and remembering the 1975 constitutional crisis.

The poll was conducted less than a week after Prime Minister Tony Abbott named General Peter Cosgrove as the next governor-general, the Queen’s representative in Australia. Mr Abbott said he could ”not think of a better person” to fill the governor-general role than General Cosgrove. ”Throughout his life, he has demonstrated a commitment to our country and a commitment to service,” Mr Abbott said. ”He has given service of the very highest order to our country. I am confident that in this new role he will continue to deliver to a grateful nation leadership beyond politics.”

General Cosgrove was roundly endorsed by male voters in the ReachTEL poll, with 61.9 per cent of men saying the decorated veteran was a better choice than Quentin Bryce. Ms Bryce, who five years ago became the first female governor-general, is due to retire next month.

Women were more supportive of Ms Bryce, with 47.4 per cent saying she was a better governor-general, compared with 52.6 per cent of women supporting General Cosgrove.

In November, Ms Bryce used the final Boyer lecture of the year to publicly support the push for Australia to become a republic. Ms Bryce said she hoped the nation would evolve into a country where same sex marriage was legal, ”and where perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation’s first head of state”.

At the time, Mr Abbott, a staunch monarchist, said: ”It’s more than appropriate for the Governor-General, approaching the end of her term, to express a personal view.”

According to the ReachTEL poll, women were less likely to support Australia becoming a republic (with 36 per cent support) than men (with 43 per cent support).

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Don’t embellish the facts on asylum seekers, ABC warns staff

As the ABC comes under government scrutiny, staff have been warned not to ”embellish” or add ”any flourish” to asylum seekers’ claims they have been mistreated by border protection forces.
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Head of ABC news content Gaven Morris sent the directive to the organisation’s top brass on Friday morning, less than 24 hours after the government announced it would conduct an ”efficiency study” into the ABC’s operations.

In an email obtained by Fairfax Media, Mr Morris instructed senior staff to advise their teams about reporting on ”incidents at sea”. He said staff should ensure that the reports ”stick to the basics”.

”As you know we currently have a set of claims by asylum seekers our editorial teams are continuing to work hard to get an accurate account of and to verify,” he wrote.

”During this process all our output should reflect the basic facts before us … we don’t need to interpret them beyond what we know, nor should be [sic] editorialising or seeking to add adjectives or any flourish.

”We’re not seeking to describe or embellish the allegations with descriptions like torture or mistreatment or violence and we’re not reporting whether we have proved or disproved anything the media has previously reported – the allegations and responses stand for themselves.”

When asked to comment on the email, Mr Morris said: ”The note was to senior editors on my team reinforcing the ABC’s enduring editorial approach. Amid the continuing varying reports of what may or may not have happened at sea and the responses to it, it was intended as a reminder that ABC News should continue to do as we always do and report the facts before us.”

The government’s efficiency study, announced on Thursday by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, will focus on the day-to-day operational and financial running of the ABC and SBS. The terms of reference stress ”it is not a study of the quality of the national broadcaster’s programs, products and services, or the responsibilities set out in their charters, but of the efficiency of the delivery of those services to the Australian public”.

But the review’s announcement came after a week of sustained pressure on the national broadcaster, including an extraordinary attack by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who suggested the ABC was being unpatriotic in its reports of asylum seekers’ allegations against officials.

On Wednesday, Mr Abbott argued that journalists should give the navy the ”benefit of the doubt” when it came to claims of wrongdoing, and said: ”A lot of people feel at the moment that the ABC instinctively takes everyone’s side but Australia’s.”

The ABC has come under sustained pressure from News Corp publications over its reporting on allegations by asylum seekers they were mistreated by Australian navy officers.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has described as ”a pretty poor effort” the ABC’s reports that asylum seekers suffered burns because of treatment by the navy, calling the claims ”unfounded, unsubstantiated, outrageous allegations against our navy and our Customs and border protection service”.

A ReachTEL poll conducted for Fairfax Media on Thursday showed the majority of Australians believed the ABC was politically neutral in its reporting.

That figure rose to 63.5 per cent among women, compared with 55.5 per cent among men.

Overall, 32.2 per cent believed the ABC was biased towards the Labor Party, while just 8.2 per cent said it was biased towards the Coalition.

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Quality drivers keep Bathurst 12 Hour on the move

Speed machine: Rick Kelly will drive a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 in the Bathurst 12 Hour.With Australian motor sport dominated since the mid 1990s by the trumpeting, elephantine presence of V8 Supercars, other forms of racing have had to battle hard to be seen and heard. V8 Supercars tended to grab the lion’s share of sponsors, attract more mainstream media coverage and fan support, and collar strong television deals.
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While not yet threatening the top-dog status of V8 Supercars, the revived annual Bathurst 12 Hour has been inexorably growing in popularity here and internationally. It cheekily uses ”The Ultimate Aussie Endurance Race” as its catch cry.

Next Sunday’s Bathurst 12 Hour has pulled a bumper entry of 44 cars, many from abroad. But it is the quality of the driver entry and the long list of explosively quick, technically fascinating, production-based GT3 cars that impress most.

Among the drivers are a DTM champ, a world touring car champ, three with formula one experience, five Bathurst 1000 winners, three V8 Supercars champions and three FIA GT world champions.

If the weather co-operates, count on a GT3 car or Radical SR8 smashing the lap record of two minutes, 4.6 seconds (set by a formula three car) at the recently resurfaced 6.2-kilometre circuit. The lap record for V8 supercars is Jamie Whincup’s 2:08.46 in 2007. Some leading GT drivers believe the 12 Hour pole next Saturday could be a 2:03. Last year’s winning team Erebus, returns with two Mercedes-Benz SLS AMGs and a stellar line-up led by the world’s most successful GT endurance racer, Bernd Schneider, who last year enjoyed wins in Dubai, Bathurst, the Nurburgring [twice], Spa and Abu Dhabi. The DTM legend will share the No.1 SLS with Maro Engel and Nico Bastian. The regular Mercedes successes in GT endurance races last year suggests the SLS V8 remains the benchmark.

New Erebus Motorsport V8 recruit Will Davison will take the wheel of the No.63 SLS – last year’s pole winner – for his sportscar debut. Youngster Jack Le Brocq and seasoned Greg Crick are co-driving that SLS.

Favoured too are six Audi R8 LMS rockets with a driving line-up that includes gun Brits Oliver Gavin and Rob Huff, Germans Christopher Mies and Markus Winkelhock and local V8 goers Jason Bright, Warren Luff and Dean Fiore. Mies was part of the winning Audi squads in 2011 and 2012, Gavin is a four-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winner and Huff a past world touring car champion.

A growing number of V8 Supercars drivers have chased starts in the Bathurst 12 Hour because the cars are so enjoyable to drive, and a good result could springboard them into major GT races overseas.

Ex-formula one driver Mika Salo will to share a Ferrari F458 Italia GT3 2013 with Craig Lowndes and John Bowe.

Benefiting from his V8 Supercars links with Nissan is Rick Kelly, sharing a Nissan GT-R Nismo GT3 with a mixed bag of foreigners from the Nissan family: Katsumasa Cyio, Alex Buncombe and Wolfgang Reip.

Actor Eric Bana, a previous Bathurst 12 Hour competitor, returns to share a Lamborghini Gallardo GT3 with mates Peter Hill and Simon Middleton. Ferrari and Lamborghini are not the only Italian marques on the grid. Three tiny Abarth 500s (based on the Fiat 500) have more than one mountain to climb. Their initial hurdle is to qualify, which means lap times within 130 per cent of the pole car. They’re aiming at a lap of 2:40 to make the cut.

The final three hours of the Bathurst 12 Hour will be shown by SBS on Sunday.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.