A few weeks before the Biennale of Sydney opens, 35 artists (of the 90 taking part) wrote to the board expressing their concerns over primary sponsor Transfield Holdings link to offshore detention facilities for asylum seekers. This left the Biennale with an unenviable choice: to bow to pressure from the artists and sever links with Transfield and the Belgiorno-Nettis family (the owners of the company), or remain loyal to the company, recognising its role as founding partner and longtime supporter of the Biennale.
The board has issued a statement saying: “The Biennale's ability to effectively contribute to the cessation of bi-partisan government policy is far from black-and-white. The only certainty is that without our Founding Partner, the Biennale will no longer exist. Consequently, we unanimously believe that our loyalty to the Belgiorno-Nettis family – and the hundreds of thousands of people who benefit from the Biennale – must override claims over which there is ambiguity”.
With just days to go before the Biennale is launched, the art world will be watching to see how the artists respond.