Carriageworks, Sydney’s sprawling industrial-style arts precinct, last night announced it will go into voluntary administration.
It’s the first major arts venue to fall under the crushing impact of COVID-19—and with state and federal governments resisting a cultural rescue package, it may not be the last.
As well as being Australia’s largest contemporary arts centre, Carriageworks has, over the years, established itself as one of Sydney’s most important and exciting arts hubs. Alongside this year’s now-cancelled big-ticket events (which accounted for two-thirds of its revenue), like Vivid, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Australia, Sydney Writer’s Festival, Sydney Contemporary Art Fair and Semi Permanent—Carriageworks has been a canvas for an enormous range of artists and art forms.
Since opening its doors in 2007, Carriageworks has been home to touring art stars: who can forget Zhang Huan’s towering two-story Sydney Buddha made from packed incense ash, the mind-splitting Ryoji Ikeda data installations, Nick Cave’s shimmying horses, or the time Katerina Grosse draped over 8,000 metres of rainbow splattered fabric throughout Carriageworks’ lofty foyer.
It’s also been home to more enigmatic and adventurous genres of art, and a band of local resident companies that offered Sydney a much richer window into the possibility of art, like Moogahlin Performing Arts, a leading NSW First Peoples performing arts company, and Marrugeku, a company dedicated to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians working together to develop new dance languages.
Most recently, Carriageworks had commissioned a set of new works of Australian artists, including Kamilaroi artist Reko Rennie’s monumental red neon piece, REMEMBER ME, a reflection on the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s landing in Botany Bay that’s currently hovering above the entrance to the arts centre.
And, of course, Carriageworks is also the site of markets: the beloved weekly Farmers Market and its seasonal night market program that drew in some of Sydney and NSW’s best producers and providores, restaurants and bars. Needless to say, Carriageworks’ dire straits have dealt a huge blow to Sydney’s arts and culture.
Carriageworks CEO Blair French has said appointed administrators at KPMG would be helping to shore-up the future of the arts venue. "The Carriageworks board regret that this action has had to be taken," he said in a statement. "They are mindful of the impact of this situation upon independent artists and partner companies across the performing and visual arts at a time when the effects of COVID-19 related closures have made this sector so vulnerable."
"The board remain hopeful that the Carriageworks facility will be able re-open to artists and community alike once NSW emerges from the effects of the current pandemic.”
While its future remains unclear, you can show your support and donate to Carriageworks here.
Image credit: Reko Rennie, REMEMBER ME, 2020. Via Carriageworks.