30 April 1993

Leading Aboriginal barrister honoured

Aboriginal barrister Robert Bellear will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Macquarie University this morning.
The award is in recognition of his professional and personal commitment to the advancement of his people.
"I'm sort of a doer rather than one who goes on about what he's done,"Bellear said last night. "But I'll certainly accept the award. It's not a token gesture, and I feel I've probably earned it."
Born in Murwillumbah, the eldest of nine children, Bellear left school early to help support his family, working as a mechanical engineer.
He graduated from the Law School at the University of NSW and was admitted to the NSW Bar in 1979.
From 1979 to 1983 he was a member of the NSW Corrective Services Advisory Committee and was appointed Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1987.
On behalf of the Northern Land Council he undertook a number of land rights cases for traditional owners.
Bellear co-founded the Aboriginal Housing Company in Redfern and worked as director of Redfern's Aboriginal Medical Service, Aboriginal Legal Service and Aboriginal Children's Service.
"It's the Year of Indigenous Peoples," he noted. "And people - both Aborigines and nonAborigines - have got to strive to educate each other in their respective cultures.
"While, slowly, there have been gains, Aborigines are still behind in education, health and housing to name just a few.
"But to gain a reasonable education, for example, one has to be mindful that kids have to go to school with a full stomach.
"Things are a lot better than they were 10 years ago, and multiculturalism has gone a long way towards bringing about equality.
"But I hasten to add there's still a long way to go."
Caption: Port: Bellear ... "sort of a doer".
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Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Publication date: 29-4-1993
Edition: Late
Page no: 2
Section: News and Features
Length: 393
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First published in The Sydney Morning Herald

28 April 1993

Redfern's new Access to art

Here is the writeoff or the first paragraph After almost eight years in Balmain, Access Contemporary Art Gallery is investing $1 million to move premises to a new warehouse in the heart of Redfern's emerging gallery belt.
"The building cost us in excess of half a million, and the refurbishment will cost the same," gallery director Brenda May revealed yesterday.
Access - which specialises in Australian contemporary painting and sculpture - will begin refurbishment of the Boronia Street premises next week and plans to move into the 550-square-metre space in October.
"At the moment it's actually just a brick shed," May said.
Robert May, of May & Swan Architects, will direct the refurbishment.
"He's also my husband, which means he's got a very difficult client," May quipped.
She explained the move was spurred by the realisation that, in Balmain, they were isolated from the nucleus of Sydney's art scene.
"We opened in Balmain in the first place because we didn't want to be seen as yet another Paddington gallery," she said.
"We wanted to do something different and develop a different feel. But, in retrospect, we made ourselves less accessible.
"Balmain's gorgeous and I love it. But it's become very gentrified, whereas the East Redfern-Surry Hills area hasn't yet.
"It still has that character where there are older residents who haven't been bought out and moved on."
May noted there were "heaps" of advantages in moving to Redfern: "When people go to galleries they don't usually just shoot out to one. They like to take a few hours and go to a few.
"And we're right in among the gallery belt here - next door to Yuill/Crowley, 10 minutes' walk to Ray Hughes, and Legge Gallery is down the road.
"People will start at Taylor Square, go to the artist-run galleries like Ten Taylor Street, then take in Ray Hughes, Yuill/Crowley, us and so on.
"Redfern is also one of the few areas that still has decent-sized warehousing."
Apart from Access, Redfern will also see a new gallery, Pendulum, open in June.
Pendulum directors Cameron Prince and Mishka Borowksi are seeking to support younger artists.
Pendulum will swell the number of exhibition spaces from Taylor Square to Redfern to at least 17.
Caption: ILLUS: Moving pictures ... Brenda May in the new gallery space in Redfern. Picture by BEN RUSHTON
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Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Publication date: 27-4-1993
Edition: Late
Page no: 2
Section: News and Features
Length: 482
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First published in The Sydney Morning Herald

23 April 1993

Art row leaves bitter taste on the palette

Reeling from recent controversy at Australia's oldest commercial art dealer, Macquarie Galleries, Sydney's art world has been besieged with calls to get its act together.
"We all think the art world has this patina of gentility about it. But it doesn't," leading arts lawyer Shane Simpson told Inside Sydney. "It's not about chardonnay - it's about getting paid."
Bought by Eileen Chanin in 1978, Macquarie Galleries has been embroiled in acrimonious claims and counter claims about the use of artists'proceeds - and the brouhaha has renewed calls for commercial galleries to adopt more conventional business practices.
Australian Commercial Galleries Association chairman Frank Watters, OAM, owner of Watters Gallery in Darlinghurst, is moving to address the problem.
"Anyone we thought was guilty of malpractice has been dropped from the association," explained Watters, who's in the process of reviewing the group's guidelines for membership.
While he wouldn't cite the offending galleries, he did maintain it was the artists' responsibility to hold their dealers to account.
"You had everyone bitching away. But when we set up an ethics committee, we couldn't get a single artist to file a complaint," he noted.
"And what you often find is there's no clear understanding between the artist and the gallery in the first place.
"But we are taking steps. I feel quite optimistic, and I wouldn't have said that a year ago."
Simpson, however, believes the only answer is legislation: "Self-regulation might boost the reputation of the industry.
"But there'd be no enforcement of any guidelines, and not every gallery is a member of the association."
Ian Collie, director of Sydney's Arts-Law Centre in Woolloomooloo, advocates use of trust accounts and written contracts, and is organising a public forum on the issue.
"There's no reason why an artist-gallery relationship should be any different to that of a solicitor-client or a real estate agent-landlord," he said.
"Moneys held by agents should be kept in trust and not be made available for cash flow."
As for contracts, Collie claimed the visual arts were the only branch of the arts not to embrace the written agreement.
"They are the norm in music, film, theatre, almost everywhere," he said. "But visual arts people still rely on the good old verbal contract."
However, Frank Watters disagrees: "Contracts just don't work in these situations.
"We've never had a contract with an artist in 30 years, and our record as an agent would be unparalleled."
Inside Sydney surveyed other Sydney members of the Australian Commercial Galleries Association on their attitudes to trust accounts and written contracts.
* Gisella Scheinberg OAM, director of Holdsworth Galleries, Woollahra: "I couldn't care less about trust accounts. I never use anybody else's money. I have plenty in the bank.
"I tell the artist my policy, but I don't believe in contracts. You can't tie down artists. It doesn't go with the artist mentality. Anyway, you can't sue them, they haven't got anything."
* Brian Hooper, manager of Coventry Gallery, Paddington: "All arrangements here are by verbal contract. As for people jumping around saying 'trust account, trust account' - they involve legal and commercial obligations which require extra expense.
"The artist has ultimate power in any artist-gallery relationship: they can withdraw."
* Lin Bloomfield, of Bloomfield Galleries, Paddington: "We're not selling washing machines. It's a very personal relationship between an artist and a gallery. I've been representing some artists for 20 years and I've never had a written contract.
"We do keep trust accounts, but I don't think they're necessary. Where the trust comes into it is between the artist and the gallery."
* Robin Gibson, Robin Gibson Gallery, Darlinghurst: "Half our artists are in the red. We advance them money and pay things in advance for them - such as framing and so on. I don't know how one would work this if one couldn't dip into the account to actually pay it.
"But I know if I didn't pay my artists in time, they'd be screaming. And I've seen what were otherwise good relationships come to grief over contracts. I'd rather take the risk that the artist will stick by me, as I'm prepared to stick by him."
* Roslyn Oxley, Roslyn Oxley Gallery: "We've set up trust accounts for artists mainly on commissions. But we make it our business to pay up front, and quickly, so we don't have much need for them. And often we extend money to the artist and they owe us.
"A lot of people pay off paintings, which complicates it further. We have had contracts, but there's no point in a contract if an artist doesn't want to work with you."
* Rex Irwin, Rex Irwin Gallery, Woollahra: "I don't use trust accounts and I will do what I've always done. Our reputation is still fine. I'm against regulation in principle.
"Making lots of rules and regulations won't help. It hasn't in any other business, has it? I don't believe you can teach people ethics.
"But let's not be too hard on the art world. I don't think greed is a disease peculiar to us.
"It's shake-out time from all that excess of the 1980s. And in the end we'll be left with the people who were there in the first place - because they're the ones that aren't in it for the money."
Caption: Illus: Frank Watters outside his gallery. Picture by DEAN SEWELL
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Publication: Sydney Morning Herald
Publication date: 22-4-1993
Edition: Late
Page no: 2
Section: News and Features
Length: 1030
First published in The Sydney Morning Herald