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Newsletter 297

Published July 29, 2019
The Powerhouse Museum is being railroaded out of town

Gladys’s gang has never been notable for transparency or accountability, but with re-election this tendency looks set to descend to a whole new level. In response to a detailed Parliamentary Inquiry into Museums and Galleries that was more than two-and-a half years in the making, Arts Minister, Don Harwin, wrote off the six recommendations in the most perfunctory fashion. Four out of six received a single dismissive sentence.

This really is the height of arrogance. It’s a calculated act of contempt that declares the Minister does not believe he is answerable to anyone for his actions or decisions. The proposed move of the Powerhouse Museum to Parramatta has been criticised by every kind of expert, while the government’s Business Case is a threadbare document based on assertions rather than facts. Remember, this is the government whose light rail project has already gone more than a $billion over budget, and counting.

We stand on the verge of a momentous act that will effectively destroy one of the state’s leading cultural facilities. The plan doesn’t give Parramatta a cultural institution but will remove a major attraction from the metropolitan area. The government will spend at least $1.5 billion to achieve this negative result.  Who wins? The developers that get hold of the Powerhouse site. Anybody else?

The main point of resistance now is the cross-bench in the NSW Senate. That means getting Mark Latham to train his aggressive instincts on the plan, chiefly to decry the waste of money that could be spent on schools, hospitals, etc. It’s a populist line, but hey, it’s true!

This week’s art column looks at Shaun Gladwell’s Pacific Undertow at the Museum of Contemporary Art. For years I’ve been trying to understand what’s so amazing about Gladwell’s video works, but they still leave me underwhelmed. As a consequence I’ve dutifully read the catalogue, attended a conversation between the curator and the artist, and had another look at the work, but I’m yet to experience a miraculous conversion.

The movie being reviewed is The White Crow, Ralph Fiennes’s portrait of the young Rudolf Nureyev, up to the time of his defection in 1961. If there were a prize for most flashbacks in a single movie, this one would be a finalist. Once we get used to the temporal instability there’s a lot to like about this idiosyncratic film. Both as actor and director, Fiennes continues to confound, but I’m not complaining. Predictability is a (highly lucrative) curse on the cinema.