Weekly Snapshot Issue: 35 – 5 July 2019

Case we’re discussing…

So you’ve finally made it and have enough cash to splurge on highbrow interests, including accumulating an art collection. You blow $465,000 on a painting purchased at an auction in Sydney and wish to take it home with you to hang in your London home.

And this is where it gets messy… section 9(3) of the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act  1986 provides for the protection of objects that constitute the moveable cultural heritage of Australia by making their permanent export subject to control. It is therefore an offence to export, or attempt to export a protected objected without the necessary permit.

The applicant in this case applied for the said permit but the Minister of Communication and Arts acting on the recommendation of the National Cultural Heritage Committee refused the granting of the export permit on the grounds that the loss of the painting would significantly diminish Australia’s cultural heritage. The owner appealed the decision with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

The prized painting in this case was an oil painting titled Snack Barpainted in 1944 by Australian artist Herbert Badham.

The Tribunal in hearing the appeal called upon several experts, including wartime historians, curators and critics of Australian art.

The applicant and some of the experts submitted that whilst the artist was well represented in national, state and regional collections; his work was rarely displayed in exhibitions and this lack of interest reflects his low importance as an Australian artist. They submitted that his reputation was more of a writer and teacher than as a writer. One of the experts submitted that whilst the Snack Bar is of social and historic interest; it does not hold any cultural significance. In her view it was not of any cultural significant. In any case, one of Badham’s most significant painting of wartime events The Fairground was already held by the Australian War Memorial.

The Respondent submitted that the fact that the owner’s work has not been subject of major exhibitions does not detract from his importance as an artist. Other experts submitted that the Snack Bar provides an” important visual record of American Servicemen mixing with everyday Australian working men and women during the war” and “reflects an important wartime experience”. Furthermore, it is the only painting that exhibits the interior of the iconic Hasty Tasty snack bar, which was the hot spot for American servicemen in Kings Cross and the first 24-hour fast food café in Sydney.

What was found to be of particular importance to the Tribunal was the portrayal between an African American sailor conversing with an Australian woman – an encounter that evidently challenges the racial prejudice that was prevalent in America at the time and goes on to tell a broader story of the impact of WW2 on the Australian home front in the final years of the war.

Ultimately, the Tribunal found that a combination of factors made Snack Bar of particular importance and therefore did not repeal the Ministers’ decision not to grant an export permit. The Tribunal considered the fact that the artwork was painted by an Australian artist and his work in public collections was relatively small. Furthermore, the artwork was of historic significance and it represented Australia as the country “on the brink of social change in relation to gender and social norms”. 

Although the owner undertook to make the painting available and returnable in the future; the Tribunal found that his offer may be valid for the owner’s lifetime but does not guarantee the long term future availability of the artwork and therefore the removal of such a painting will deprive future Australian generations of the opportunity to appreciate such a work.

Infograph we’re loving…

Podcast episode we’ve enjoyed this week…

What intrigues us about living in this country is the diversity of cultures, customs and faiths that intermingle in society. To a curious mind likes ours interested in anthropology; Australia is sometimes a jewel mine. Undoubtedly racism and tensions are at times rife; but travel and experience has taught us that this is not necessarily unique to Australia.

On a recent episode on the Conversations with Richard FidlerABC podcast; Richard Fidler interviewed writer and former street performer Mandy Sayer on the history and stories of Australia’s first Romani.

We learnt that the Romani (often known colloquially as gypsies or Roma) originated from a single group that left north western India about 1,500 years ago. Romani people began arriving to Australia from Europe with the First Fleet, and among them was the famous James Squire – the colony’s first brewer.

The podcast episode offers fascinating facts on the cultural customs of the Romani people; including the formation of their language and dialects, dispelling folklore myths and their ability to assimilate to the religion of their host country whilst still maintaining their traditional rites and customs; even in modern society.

Article we are reading…

Learning how to learn! That is the question that Michael Simmons attempts to address in his  article.  The idea is simple- teach what you learn as soon as you learn it.

Life Advice we are loving…

A  top thread reminds us that at some point you have to put away the information and just act:

More books! More articles! More podcasts! More lectures! More, more, more! I need to know the secrets of the universe before I end up starting my business, before I apply for that job, before I take that trip, befo re I ask out that girl. 

We need to be perfect and then, then we’ll act. One day. One day.
But one day never comes. Neither does perfection. The real truth about self-development, the real pain is the application. It’s in the messy interactions between imperfect human beings. 

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