Gatekeeping & Ethics in a Globalised Artworld

Conference | August 2019

L-R: Patricia Piccinini, Una Rey, Kate Daw, Ian McLean, Vikki McInnes, Djon Mundine

Presented by the Centre of Visual Art (CoVA) at the University of Melbourne, 'Gatekeeping and Ethics in a Globalised Artworld' was held on Friday 16 August and Saturday 17 August 2019, at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Victorain College of the Arts. The conference drew on many of the ideas in the transdisciplinary book, Who Runs the Artworld: Money, Power and Ethics (Libri, 2017) and in the recent issue of the Journal of Asia Pacific Pop Culture 3.1 (Penn State University Press, 2018) and the forthcoming A Companion to Curation (Wiley Blackwell 2019), in seeking to articulate the forces of gatekeeping and ethics in our shared contemporary world.

This conference attempted to delineate the unfolding intricacies, cultural anxieties, and issues salient to artists, curators and institutions in Australia, South East Asian and beyond.

This means questioning the many classist, colonialist, racist and phallocentric assumptions, beliefs and claims that have been traditionally entrenched in major Euro-American curatorial, aesthetic and museological traditions. Traditions where the various art forms of the different Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Australia and New Zealand amongst many groups, have been until recently, excluded by institutional and cultural gatekeepers. While many curators are seen as gatekeepers, a more pressing ethical issues is the relationship between curators, museums trustees, benefactors and collectors.

These questions are further complicated by the global transition that we are witnessing: the passing of the 20th century, commonly idenitifed as the 'American century', and the emergence of a new century that is frequently referred to as the 'Chinese century'. This is an era of geo-political upheaval, of ideological, stratefic, socio-economic and political uncertainties that may presage a new Cold War. The emerging trade war between China and the US, and China's recent contestation of the South China Sea are signs that there is a new political and cultural gatekeeper in the Asia-Pacific with different ethics. Will the rise of China disrupt the Western cultural hegemony and its gatekeepers?