How have you seen the art and cinema industry change since starting your career?
I started writing about the visual arts in the early 1980s, so the changes have been cataclysmic – and probably too plentiful to write about briefly. The world has grown much smaller with the advent of the Internet but this is not the only way it has become globalised. In Australia we used to devote a lot of time to discussing the difference between a provincial art world and an international one, but now every mildly ambitious artist takes an international perspective. Places such as Hong Kong have emerged as hubs in which many different cultural products come together – although the immediate future may be another matter.
I’ve watched the art market boom and the rise and rise of contemporary art. As the rich get richer they are buying more art, but very few of them seem to have what was once quaintly known as “taste”. I’ve watched China’s emergence as a financial and cultural powerhouse. I’ve watched the rise – and possible fall – of the international art fair. I’ve seen the critic’s role be subsumed by that of the publicist, but this is balanced by the fact that we are now writing for a much broader audience.
In the cinema I’ve endured the rise of the big-budget franchises and superhero films, with their wall-to-wall CGI, but felt reassured by the continuing vitality of the industry as so many different countries keep producing notable movies. Unfortunately, the Australian film industry, which had its golden age in the 1970s, is now in the doldrums. With both art and film I’m concerned that mass audiences are looking more and more for an instant hit and losing the capacity for sustained attention. This is creating an ever-widening gap between popular taste and so-called elite taste, reminiscent of the economic chasm that has opened up between haves and the have-nots