The Australian runs a fascinating profile of the country’s Artbank, an institution consciously constructed to support the art market in times of trouble. Geoffrey Cassidy, the organization’s head is front and center:
Established by the federal government in 1980, Artbank has grown into one of the nation’s largest collections of contemporary Australian art. It rents to private, corporate and public bodies for a fraction of the purchase price. “We’re about supporting the art market generally and artists in particular,” Cassidy says.
But as the art market contracts as part of the global financial crisis, Artbank is preparing to take an active role by helping stabilise the sector. While other buyers are expected to cut back on spending to adjust to the downturn, Artbank will maintain its purchasing rate at present record levels. Cassidy says the move will work as a kind of stimulus package for Australian art.
“We come into our own now,” he says. “This is what we’re all about.”
Cassidy says Artbank’s prospects are healthy: the agency became self-funding in 1992 and its collection is valued at more than $35million. The amount it spends on art — it buys only from living Australian artists — has increased to a record $1 million in the present financial year. He leaves open the possibility that Artbank’s purchasing budget will remain static next year. But he says it is unlikely to go any lower than its present level regardless of any looming recession.
“We see ourselves as supporting not just the artists but the art market as well. It’s about keeping the whole system strong,” Cassidy says. “When everything is booming and everyone is selling their work, we’re not as important. But if other people have pulled out, we’re still going to be out there doing it.
Artbank Ready to Lend a Hand (The Australian)