This story was published in the Australian Financial Review, 21-22 May 2005.
Group member, Janne was commissioned to write this story in response to the growing market for, and interest in, video art in Australia. It ran in the Perspective section of the Weekend AFR.
THE RISE OF VIDEO ART, by Janne Ryan
“Video art has become a given in contemporary visual art,” announces Juliana Engberg, artistic director, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, and Melbourne Festival’s Biennale.
While many highly acclaimed Australian artists – Susan Norrie, Tracy Moffatt, Lyndal Jones, Mike Parr, Stelarc and Philip Brophy – have been working with video art for many years, video art now hosts a ‘new’ generation of visual artists. The most prominent of these include Sydney artists Shaun Gladwell and TV Moore and Melbourne-based David Rosetzky. Blurring the generation boundary is multi-media artist Patricia Piccinini, Australia’s representative at 2003 Venice Biennale.
It’s now considered a serious art form for collectors – although still a small base of buyers – and curators worldwide, featuring in nearly every major international art show and major public museum.
In Melbourne last year the National Gallery of Victoria combined forces for the first time with the Australian Centre for Moving Image to co-curate 2004, Australian Culture Now, a comprehensive look at Australian art, placing the moving image on equal footing with painting, sculpture and photography.
Then in early 2005 the Art Gallery of NSW marked its commitment to video art with the Anne Landa Award, the first of its kind in Australia. David Rosetzky took out the inaugural $25,000 prize with his multi-screen work on relationships, ‘Untouchable’, now held within the AGNSW’s extensive video art collection.
“In many ways video art has come to almost replace painting – it’s a moving fresco,” says Engberg, who was on the selection panel for the biennial Anna Landa Award, along with AGNSW boss Ed Capon, and Wayne Tunnicliffe, AGNSW, curator of contemporary art.
Liz Ann Macgregor, Director of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art, is more circumspect: “I think it is a recognition of the diversity in current practice. Despite the prediction that the new media would lead to the demise in more ‘traditional’ media, this has not yet proved the case. Artists continue to work in all manner of ways. . . but there is no doubt that young audiences respond to video.”
WHO’S BUYING VIDEO ART?
In the past 12 months, art consultant Barbara Flynn has noticed a significant change in what her corporate and private clients are responding to and actually purchasing.
“A lot of them have seen projection art in the museums around the world and seeing work they like, so they are coming to me with a lot of knowledge. For them it is an aesthetic and intellectual choice. It’s not a matter of price.”
Flynn observes that while it is relatively easy to purchase a good piece by a significant artist – because of Australia’s very small collector base – this is likely to change in the next one to two years as the competition increases from collectors both here and overseas.
David Broker, acting director of the Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, observes that the medium has taken off in and around the digital revolution. It is easy and cheap to make video art, which is art shot digitally and stored on DVDs. For many young artists this is their medium – born with a mouse and a remote at their fingertips.
“The work can be sent around the world in an envelope. You don’t have freight charges, making it really easy for artists to exhibit anywhere they want,” Broker says.
Trevor Chappell, executive chairman, property specialists Austcorp, started a corporate collection in 2003 to coincide with a move into a new space in St Leonards, Sydney. Taking advantage of the double-height foyer he has bought and displays video art by Patricia Piccinini, Sydney artist TV Moore, Melbourne artists James Lynch, David Rosetzky and Destiny Deacon, and New York-based Tracey Moffatt.
“The video art really reflects who we are, what our company is and where we are going.” Chappell notes. “We see ourselves as selling a top quality product, and the video art reflects that edge.”
While many galleries – Roslyn Oxley9 in Sydney and Anna Schwartz in Melbourne – have been pioneers in selling cutting-edge video art, Sydney gallerist Vasili Kaliman was one of the first galleries in Australia to sell the ‘new’ generation of Australia video artists.
“By new generation I mean artists like David Rosetzky (whom he represents), Shaun Gladwell (Shermans, Sydney) and TV Moore (Roslyn Oxley9, Sydney) – people who have garnered the publicity and actually put collecting video art on the map”
Kaliman says David Rosetzky’s solo show in 2002, featuring his now highly sought-after collectable video art work Weekender, caught him by surprise.
“I thought I would sell the work to young first-time buyers, but we actually sold the work to more established collectors,” says Kaliman. “These more sophisticated collectors are actually taking part in the transaction, which is subtle, buying into an idea, the artist’s career and a relationship with the gallery.”
He states: “Many of them don’t even display the work, they collect it like a rare book.”
On the genuine concern many buyers have about DVD copying, Kaliman says it doesn’t matter. For him the provenance is in owning the validated work, like a first- edition book.
“A copied video art work is like a photocopied page from a book – it isn’t the same as owning the book, or the art”.
The experience at Sydney’s top-end contemporary gallery, Shermans, is similar. Lisa Corsi, Sherman’s curatorial and collection manager, says the gallery has deliberately shifted its focus in the past two years.
For Sydney artist Shaun Gladwell’s first solo exhibition in June 2003, Sherman’s put forward a video piece – Storm Sequence – as the signature work for sale. The edition of 4 – costing $3,000 each – sold out before the opening. Gladwell, previously known as a painter, suddenly found himself in the front row as one of Australia’s most sought after, and controversial, young artists.
Corsi says Gladwell has brought a new demographic of buyers to the gallery. “People are still buying paintings, of course, but they are increasingly interested in the ‘new’ digital medium,” she says.
HOW TO PURCHASE VIDEO ART
Video art, like photography, is sold in editions. It can be sold as a single-screen piece, which can be screened on domestic TVs or laptops – or in multi-screen projections that need more complex installation. Barbara Flynn notes that in the USA, where she has worked extensively in top contemporary galleries, 7 -10 editions are considered the upper limit.
“I don’t advise my clients to buy anything with an edition run of over 7,” Flynn says. This is primarily to define a strong value in the artist’s work. Too many editions could lessen the value – and re-sale value – of the work.
While most museum-quality and multi-channel work is more highly priced and in editions under 5, edition runs can be an uneven experience, with some single-channel works in editions of up to 20, or more.
Cheaper single-channel works will often sell in larger editions allowing wider exposure for a young artist, both locally and internationally.
A Roslyn Oxley spokeswoman remarks that her gallery has an edition policy that allows sales in an international and local market – and that the editions runs are ‘fluid’. Top USA-based Australian artist Tracey Moffett, for example, sells all her video work in an unlimited edition for $100 a copy.
Barbara Flynn observes: “For an Australian artist to get greater leverage internationally they actually need strong affiliations with the top galleries in USA, UK and Europe.
“It’s important to get invited to international art fairs, this is a powerful threshold for an artist – this is where the international curators go to see work they then put into the major Biennales. It is essential for Australian artists to get seen by international curators. On the whole it is hard to get these people to Australia.”
WHO ARE THE TOP AUSTRALIAN ARTISTS?
The AFR spoke to a range of independent curators – Juliana Engberg (Melbourne’s Australian Centre for Contemporary); Elizabeth Ann Macgregor (Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art); Alexi Glass (freelance curator and writer); Blair French, (Sydney’s Performance Space); David Broker, (Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art); Wayne Tunnicliffe, (Art Gallery of New South Wales) – for their thoughts on Australia’s top video artists.
This kind of exercise is likely to end in grief, as the curators and critics dodge the answer, well aware of the pitfalls of ranking artists.
The frontrunners in the new generation of Australian video artists include Shaun Gladwell, David Rosetzky, TV Moore and Patricia Piccinini. These four join an overall list nominated as Australia’s top video artists, including Susan Norrie, Lyndal Jones (Australia’s 2001 Venice Biennale representative), Tracey Moffatt, Destiny Deacon, John Gillies, Mike Parr and Adam Gezcy, Guy Benfield, David Noonan, Tony Schwensen, Peter Callas and Denis del Favero.
Emerging artists include: The Kingpins, Monika Tichacek, Grant Stevens, Craig Walsh, Daniel von Sturmer, Emil Goh, Van Somerwine, Daniel Crooks and James Lynch.
Coincidently, both Sotheby’s Geoff Cassidy, head of non-indigenous Australian art, and Christie’s head of contemporary art, Annette Larkin, put forward Gladwell, Rosetzky and Piccinini as the three artists whose video work they would be most keen to sell at auction.
While no video art has yet been sold at auction in Australia, Larkin notes that it’s only a matter of time. “I was hoping to have had a piece in our May auction. It will happen in the next couple of years, I think,” Larkin says.
“There are a couple of very sought-after pieces out there.”
WHAT YOU PAY FOR VIDEO ART?
(Prices vary from single channel to multi-channel pieces):
TOP AUSTRALIAN VIDEO ARTISTS:
+ Susan Norrie ($20,000-$55,000/Mori Gallery, Sydney)
+ Lyndal Jones ($15,000- $150,000/Anna Schwartz, Melbourne)
+ Patricia Piccinini ($8,800 – $33,000/Roslyn Oxley9, Sydney; Tolarno, Melbourne)
+ Shaun Gladwell (single screen only $6,000/Shermans, Sydney)
+ David Rosetzky ($5,000 – $20,000/Kaliman Gallery, Sydney)
+ TV Moore ($2,300 – $28,000/Roslyn Oxley9)
+ Tracey Moffatt ($100 unlimited edition/Roslyn Oxley9)
+ David Noonan ($3,000/Uplands, Melbourne; Roslyn Oxley9)
TOP EMERGING VIDEO ARTISTS:
+ The Kingpins ($5,000 – $20,000/Kaliman Gallery)
+ James Lynch ($3,000-$35,000/Uplands, Melbourne; Mori, Sydney)
+ Monika Tichacek ($3,500 Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne)
+ Daniel Crooks ($3,000/ Shermans)
+ Daniel von Sturmer ($5,000 – $25,000/Anna Schwartz)
TOP INTERNATIONAL VIDEO ARTISTS
(all seen in Australia)
Bill Viola (USA – opens National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 29 July – 6 November), Ugo Rondinone (born Switzerland, lives USA), Matthew Barney (USA), Douglas Gordon (UK), Shirin Neshat (born Iran, lives USA), Bruce Nauman (USA).
Shaun Gladwell has a BA from Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney, and an MA from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales. He has also studied at Goldsmith’s College, University of London. His work is held is the National Gallery of Australia, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and in private collections in Australia, UK, USA and Germany. His work explores the choreography of movement and street culture (skaters, BMX bike-riders and breakdancers)
Patricia Piccinini was born in Sierra Leone in 1965, arriving in Australia in 1972. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (economic History), Australian national University, and a Bachelor of Arts (painting), Victorian College of the Arts. She lives and works in Melbourne. She represented Australia at the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 with a group of biomorphic sculptures titled We are Family. Her Venice Biennale presentation also included this digital animation work, Plasmid Region, in which the artist explores her ongoing interest in the themes of biotechnology and bioethics. She is held in private and public collections, including National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Parliament House, Canberra, and Queensland Art Gallery.
David Rosetzky was born in 1970 in Melbourne, where he continues to live and work. He has a Bachelor of Fine Art (painting), from the Victorian College of the Arts. He is held in many private and public collections in Australia, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, NSW. David Rosetzky’s high-production videos explore the intimate thoughts of his subjects contrasted against their exterior look.
TV Moore was born in 1974 in Canberra. He has a Bachelor of Visual Arts from the Sydney College of the Arts and is currently undertaking a Master of Fine Arts, CalArts, Los Angeles, USA on a Samstag Scholarship. His first solo show was in Sydney in 2004, and his work is held in private and public collections (Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney). TV Moore’s work explores cultural themes e.g. Ned Kelly, personal belonging and social anxiety.