Friday, February 21, 2014

Biennale of Sydney Board - Response to Working Group

NB: This was sent to the Artists working Group via the press, it was unsigned, however it has been widely quoted from in the press. At this point we have not received a written response to our concerns over the founding sponsors involvement in the Australian government's policy of offshore mandatory detention.


4.30 PM, 21 FEBRUARY 2014

21 February 2014

Firstly, let us say that we truly empathise with the artists in this situation.

Like them, we are inadvertently caught somewhere between ideology and principle.
Both parties are ‘collateral damage’ in a complex argument. Neither wants to see
human suffering.

Artists must make a decision according to their own understanding and beliefs. We
respect their right to do so.

While being mindful of these valid concerns, it is this Board’s duty to act in the
interests of the Biennale and all its stakeholders – our audiences, government
partners, staff, benefactors and sponsors, along with all Biennale artists and the
broader arts sector.

On the one hand, there are assertions and allegations that are open to debate. On
the other, we have a long-term history of selfless philanthropy, which has been the
foundation of an event that has served the arts and wider community for the past 40
years.

The Biennale’s ability to effectively contribute to the cessation of bi-partisan
government policy is far from black and white. The only certainty is that without our
Founding Partner, the Biennale will no longer exist.

Consequently, we unanimously believe that our loyalty to the Belgiorno-Nettis family
– and the hundreds of thousands of people who benefit from the Biennale – must
override claims over which there is ambiguity.

While we unequivocally state our support and gratitude for our sponsor’s continued
patronage, we also extend an invitation to the Working Group to engage with us in
dialogue with the purpose of finding an acceptable accommodation.

The Biennale has long been a platform for artists to air their sometimes challenging
but important views unfettered and we would like to explore this avenue of
expression, rather than see the demise of an important community asset.

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