Monday, April 03, 2006

Pro Hart and the “elites”

NEWFSLASH: Australia’s “elites” do not, for whatever reason, include (i) journalists from the Australian, or (ii) the mincing millionaire (= Sydney eastern-suburbs home-owner) David Flint. Conversely, I most assuredly belong to the “elites”.

Hence, I hereby make an open offer to all Australian journalists, and David Flint: trade places with me. As it happens, I am qualified to do both types of job (journo and fruity lawyer-about-town), so what have you got to lose, people? In return for your trading *up* to my “elite” life (income of $10k/year, rent $110/week, no assets), I will happily handover all my current privileges to you, and then eke out an existence as a full-time employed person and/or Sydney home-owner.

David Flint’s definition of “elites” is at least partially transparent: if you’re a republican, then you’re definitely one of them, while if you’re a monarchist (like Pro Hart apparently was), then you’re one of the non-elites – just like Flint himself:

A strong supporter of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, [Pro Hart] distrusted all elites, including of course, republicans.

Wealth, class, sexual orientation etc, seem to count for nothing in this schema. However, I’d be fairly certain that a survey of GenX (but not boomer) republicans would see them as poorer than GenX monarchists. In any event, who in my generation actually cares about republic vs monarchy at the moment? Not me: I reckon that unemployment, and “pig-isotope” John selling uranium to a bellicose China, are rather more pressing concerns, for starters.

Meanwhile, Australian journalists seem to have divined – rather more sensibly, IMO – that being “elite”, or not, is largely to do with how one plays and/or is played by baroque games of inter-personal etiquette. Hence the Oz’s focus in recent days on who, if anyone, among Australia’s top public-gallery curators (i) was invited by Pro Hart to his exhibitions, and (ii) snubbed such an invitation.

The answer to the first appeared to be clear, at least on Wednesday: no one. If federal Community Services Minister John Cobb can be regarded as a proxy voice for Hart here, the reason for such non-invitations was an etiquette stand-off: Hart (or at least Cobb) believed that, as an Australian icon, Pro Hart’s work spoke for itself and it was therefore “an outrage that the [NGA would be] soliciting invites to art shows” (same URL). OTOH, the NGA’s implicit position – which seems reasonable enough to me, but then I’m just an “elite” – is that any artist wanting tens-of-thou-plus of taxpayer money spent on their work should expect to go through a few, smallish hoops first.

Until Saturday, this plausible-enough etiquette stand-off seemed to be the Oz’s definitive take on Pro vs the elites. In a stunning turnaround (although curiously unnoticed by anyone at the Oz), the story then became that, far from their being any etiquette stand-off, Hart had inundated Australia’s top public galleries with invitation to his shows, only to be “constant[ly] reject[ed]”:

“But 20 years of inviting the nation's art museums to Hart exhibitions failed to draw a single acceptance. In the art world, that is a serious snub, as a director or curator at an opening automatically imbues the artist with cachet”.

Diddums, Pro. If there’s a hell, I’m sure that its backdrop looks a lot like one of your lame Drysdale-copycat works. So I hope and trust you got the invitation thing right this time, for your afterlife. HINT: I’m pretty sure *they* invite you. It would sure be a bitch to get snubbed at the gates of your own eternal gallery, eh?

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