Biennale protesters not about to ease up on Transfield

The artists who forced the Biennale of Sydney to sever its ties with Transfield will continue to target the company and arts organisations that receive its sponsorship dollars.

Artist Gabrielle de Vietri, who headed the campaign that also led to Transfield Foundation director Luca Belgiorno-Nettis quitting as chairman of the biennale, said other companies profiting from the policy of offshore detention centres would also be scrutinised.

"We are going to pursue this through divestment workshops and seeing how much more we can affect this policy through targeting the companies that are profiting from mandatory detention," she said.

The Transfield Foundation supports the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Accessible Arts NSW.

The Belgiorno-Nettis family also has close links with the Art Gallery of NSW, where Luca's brother, Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, is president of the board of trustees. He also heads the president's council, which offers companies a personal association with the gallery through their chief executives.

De Vietri said the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and the AGNSW were among institutions that could suffer a backlash from artists over Transfield links.

"Artists are beginning to turn down offers to participate in programs next year," she said.

However, the artistic community is divided over the targeting of Transfield and the Belgiorno-Nettis family.

A leading artist and gallery owner, Christopher Hodges, said many artists viewed the loss of the Biennale's major sponsor and the departure of Mr Belgiorno-Nettis as the worst possible outcome.

"Everyone feels the artists have cut off their noses off to spite their faces, and in attacking Transfield they've missed the target all together," he said.

Mr Hodges, who is the director of Utopia Art Sydney, said the campaign against Transfield was misguided and had not resulted in changes to the federal government's offshore detention centre policy.

He said the logical target would have been the Australia Council, the national arts funding agency.

"So far their message has had no response from the government," he said. "We haven't heard boo."

Mr Hodges said it would be hypocritical of those artists to rejoin the Biennale as the money contributed by Transfield would already have been spent on the event.

De Vietri said she had not decided whether to reverse her decision to pull out of the Biennale.

Transfield reportedly contributes just over 6 per cent of the Biennale's budget of about $10 million. However, financial documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission indicate Transfield provides a substantial debt guarantee to the festival.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra's general manager, Tim Calnin, said he hoped the orchestra would not be targeted by protesters. None of its arts had raised the issue, he said.

Transfield is a major sponsor of the ACO.

The story Biennale protesters not about to ease up on Transfield first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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