That was the year that was: 2023 in review

Flip back through the pages of 2023 with our annual round-up of the year's arts headlines.

As we stagger towards the finishing line of another frenetic year, here is ArtsHub‘s annual recap of the major headlines of 2023.

For additional reflections on the year that was, please consider our annual summary of those we’ve lost, the overview of stories published as part of our truly significant Amplify Collective, 2023’s most-read reviews, and more.

Thank you for your support and readership throughout the year: we’ll be back in January with more arts news, reviews and interrogations of the sector. And don’t forget to check out our regular news summaries, Monday’s On the Move column, Wednesday’s Opportunities and Awards, and the weekly Friday news wrap, for any other stories you may have missed!


New Year creative reset
It’s time to practise radical self-compassion and care. These tips should help you do just that.

Developing a culture of arts philanthropy
Policy-makers and arts organisations must consider how to encourage next-generation philanthropy.

Landmark Warlpiri Dictionary puts living ancient language first

A living language, with over 3000 people speaking Warlpiri, this new dictionary ensures it will be spoken for future generations.

Is your institution colour blind ready?
An Australian museum is making sure it offers an inclusive experience for vision impaired audiences.

Uncle Archie receives posthumous Order of Australia honour
There were 68 artists and arts workers among the 1047 recipients honoured ‘for meritorious, distinguished and conspicuous service’.

Revive: $286 million National Cultural Policy revealed
The new cultural policy ‘puts the arts back where they are meant to be – at the heart of our national life,’ according to Prime Minister Albanese.


‘Creative Australia will be built by what we do’
Key priorities of Creative Australia have been announced with more information on four new industry bodies.

How funding woes inspired a new home for live art
Launceston’s Assembly 197 is a new approach to art-making that celebrates the spirit of community and collaboration.

Significant object heads home to Tasmania after 230 years
After a 230-year absence, a rikawa has returned to Tasmania for an exhibition with deep cultural significance.

Artists fear impact of Advertiser’s Fringe reviews ‘ban’
With Adelaide Fringe not advertising in The Advertiser this year, the paper appeared to be striking back by abandoning reviews coverage.

Australian collection hits four million items
Hitting a significant milestone in acquisitions, the National Film and Sound Archive is a living resource for Australian culture.


Inaugural First Nations and POC Writers Count
The report shows a significant underrepresentation of diverse writers published in Australia.

Regional gallery conference tackles the pressure points
Soundbites from regional galleries conference to trigger new thinking around topics of diversity, sustainability, disaster preparedness and more.

Photo: Kajetan Sumila, Unsplash.

Albanese Government acts on audio and e-book lending rights promise
Updating Australia’s lending rights schemes to include digital content will see increased payments flow directly to local writers, illustrators and publishers.

Art should not be by postcode: report calls for a fair share
Report finds staggering inequality of arts and culture funding, skills shortfall, and infrastructure support for Western Sydney.

One million tickets sold at Adelaide Fringe
The Festival has set a new record for ticket sales, resulting in a total box office of $25.17 million.

Curators’ responsibilities in spotlight as Chinese audiences feel ‘let down’
A group of Chinese students have raised concerns over the curatorial approach of a show depicting some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.


Rise of the philanthropic ‘mega gift’, and how you can join the trend
A new report shows that philanthropists are giving more, and offers pathways to getting the ‘ask’ right.

Trove saved thanks to $42.2 million Federal lifeline
The Albanese Government has provided digital archive Trove with $33 million over four years, plus an additional $9.2 million in indexed ongoing annual funding.

May budget to invest $535 million in cultural institutions
Institutions, including the National Gallery of Australia and National Museum of Australia, will receive new and indexed funding.

Good Work: building a stronger arts ecosystem
How can we nurture and sustain a thriving Australian arts ecosystem? Four cultural leaders offered ideas at a recent forum in Melbourne.

Capacity-building program for indie dance sector launched in Brisbane
Skills development, capacity building and funded creative residencies are being offered to independent dance artists in south-east Queensland.

Reasons we paint: Indigenous artists speak on tampering allegations
Indigenous artists and art centre workers voice their thoughts on APY Lands art tampering allegations.

Housing crisis pushes artists to the brink … of creativity
Unable to find suitable accommodation, one local artist has come up with a novel solution.


Artists remain vulnerable over insurance cuts
Widespread dismay about proposed insurance policy changes for artists has led to a reversal, but concerns remain.

Why an anniversary counts … literally
ArtsHub takes a look at some of the arts organisations and festivals celebrating a milestone anniversary in 2023.

Budget 2023-24: What’s in it for the arts?
Nearly $960 million is being directed towards Australia’s cultural sector, including support for arts education and training, and the screen sector.

Budget 2023-24: the sector responds
Live Performance Australia, the National Association for the Visual Arts and other peak bodies respond to Tuesday’s Federal Budget.

New details revealed for the Creative Australia Bill 2023
Music Australia will be established with a $69 million investment across four years, alongside the new industry body Creative Workplaces.

Arts community pledge for ‘fossil free sponsorship’
A new pledge and database celebrates the commitment to fossil fuel free sponsorship while highlighting the work that still needs to be done.

More calls for arts to push against fossil fuel sponsorships
Momentum is building with a Climate Union and new report calling to end fossil fuel sponsorships in the arts.


Audiences return but younger ones are feeling the pinch
Rising costs of living are making it hard for under-35s and families to afford cultural events. A new report suggests ideas to reach them.

First Nations Classics released in time for NAIDOC week
Books from a clutch of both contemporary and historic Indigenous writers comprise this new release of First Nation Classics.

Books without barriers: a free inclusive publishing guide
The Institute of Professional Editors has produced a comprehensive resource for the publishing industry to create inclusive books for those with a print disability.

Women outnumber men in Honours List
The King’s Birthday Honours List was revealed at the weekend, with a number of people in the arts and cultural sector recognised.

First Nations Artists on the Voice
ArtsHub asks a range of First Nations artists and creatives to share their thoughts on the upcoming referendum.

The decline of arts support in South Australia
Last week’s South Australian state budget saw funding cuts to arts and culture and a gallery on hold, putting the state further behind.

Taking a machete to the ABC … again
Has the ABC gone too far this time?

Giving Attitude: report findings on private giving
A new report estimates that private giving has dropped by more than a quarter, but the outlook remains optimistic.

Over 40 diverse writers join ArtsHub’s Amplify Collective
The Amplify Collective will platform talented writers from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, enabling them to share their voices.


Rise in the cost of living impacting artists
Hikes in living costs are putting the pinch on studio practice – artists offer their advice on soldiering on through the tough times.

Circus sector shocked as Swinburne freezes 2024 NICA intake
Swinburne’s decision to freeze the 2024 student intake for Australia’s only accredited Bachelor of Circus Arts course at NICA has the sector deeply alarmed.

When the money is given back … something is terribly wrong
News of the cancellation of the Hyde Park Barracks Art Commission has raised many questions.

The Australian Ballet dancers pivot to industrial action
Stalled pay negotiations reflect the financial woes of the country’s leading ballet company.

NSW commits to artist-led development of Creative Industries policy
A statewide consultation process in July and August aims to ensure artists and arts workers can contribute to a new cultural policy for NSW.

Photo: Anna Kolosyuk, Unsplash.

And it could be yours … well, for a while
From John Olsen to Lindy Lee and Joan Miró to Helen Frankenthaler – the National Gallery is making available top-drawer artists for long-term loans.

Design revealed for National Aboriginal Art Gallery, Mparntwe
The design for Australia’s First National Aboriginal Art Gallery has been revealed, putting gathering spaces first.


Review delivered on interference in Aboriginal paintings
The National Gallery of Australia has tabled its independent Review into Art Centre interference in the painting of Indigenous artworks.

Cambodian sculpture return is a win-win
Three Cambodian sculptures have been formally returned, and then loaned back to the National Gallery of Australia.

Creative companies filing for bankruptcy
Within days, two creative companies announced that they had moved into liquidation, confirming fears of a tightening economy in the sector.

On the brink: why has music venue insurance gone through the roof?
Insurance cost hikes are placing some music venues on the edge of closure, while affected venues say there have so far not received convincing answers from insurers about the cause.

Safeguarding body the Creative Workplaces Council established by Government
The Federal Government has established the Creative Workplaces Council, a national body intended to raise and set workplace standards across the arts.

Major arts fund restructure sparks questions on future support
Despite assurances from recently restructured WA philanthropic organisation Minderoo Foundation that the arts will remain a priority area, its future arts plans are still not certain.

Music Australia will share our songs with the world
The creation of Music Australia will drive commercial exports and strengthen Australia’s live music sector.

The launch of Creative Australia to welcome new era
Appointees announced for Creative Australia board, Music Australia Council and Creative Workplaces Council.

More signs of arts media pain: powerhouse local arts mag to pause
An arts media platform that was started as a way to fill gaps in local arts coverage has announced it is pausing publication.


Cartoonist leads Walkley Awards boycott over fossil fuel sponsorship
Australia’s national journalism awards are tainted by their association with the fossil fuel industry, says cartoonist Jon Kudelka.

ABC announces new TV arts show hosted by Virginia Trioli
Can the ABC’s newly announced TV program reverse the degraded coverage of the arts on the national broadcaster?

Minister for the Arts back-pedalling on promises
Is the “revitalisation” of plans for Powerhouse Ultimo a sign of the NSW Government’s dwindling commitment to the arts?

Arts organisations’ statements on the Voice (part 1)
As the Voice referendum campaign enters its final weeks, some Australian arts organisations have put forward their views.

Beyond sector, how are Australians engaging with art post-COVID
The most recent National Art Participation Survey reports key data close to pre-pandemic rates, but a few inconsistencies offer warnings.

Dark Mofo on hold for 2024 quoting ‘rising costs’
A statement released by Dark Mofo says the Hobart festival will reset in 2024, but that Winter Feast and the Nude Solstice Swim will still go ahead.

Arts organisations’ statements on the Voice (part 2)
In the lead-up to the referendum vote, ArtsHub has collated more official arts sector statements on the Voice.


Strikes at Victorian universities: anger, exhaustion and a sense of injustice
With more than 70% of teaching-only staff casually employed and millions owed in “wage theft”, university workers are desperate for better pay and conditions.

WA Chamber of Arts secured … well, for two years
A funding announcement brings some stability to the state’s peak body.

Musician returns Order Of Australia medal over Voice referendum result
Shane Howard, the singer-songwriter of ‘Solid Rock, Sacred Ground’, has returned his Order of Australia medal in protest at the Voice referendum result.

Critical Stages goes into liquidation
The Board of Critical Stages Touring has placed the company into liquidation, with the company ceasing to trade and staff no longer employed.


After collective efforts, Hobart recognised as new UNESCO City of Literature
A five-year ambition has come to fruition thanks to the efforts of the City of Hobart’s literary community.

Tony Burke talks the ‘State of the Arts’
Federal Arts Minister, Tony Burke, delivered the Inaugural State of the Arts Oration at Western Sydney University. This is what he had to say.

Rupert Myer calls for a Ministerial Council for the Arts
In a National Press Club Address, Rupert Myer outlined what it would take for Australia to become a “cultural powerhouse”, starting with a critical shift in thinking.

Do we want Gauguin back?
The NGA’s announced Gauguin World exhibition raises questions, but also proposes new answers.


Powerhouse Ultimo announces three-year closure
Powerhouse has released the concept designs for its Ultimo site, a key factor of which is reorienting the museum to the CBD.

Melbourne gallery has artists seeing red
Artists speak up after frustrating dealings with long-standing RED Gallery.

Potential Griffith University Art Museum closure
The future of Griffith University Art Museum is uncertain as pressures for faculty expansion have led to a rethink of priorities.

Bring on the New Year! Photo: Michael Pointner, Unsplash.

Blue Cow Theatre to take its final bow
Lacking secure government support, the Hobart-based Blue Cow has decided to bow out on its own terms.

A new era for Artspace begins
With a secured future, Artspace reopens its Woolloomooloo space after a significant redevelopment, and fuses history and memory with contemporary art in its opening program.

159 organisations receive four-year funding from Creative Australia
The Four Year Investment for Organisations program has seen 45 more organisations supported than were funded in the 2021-2024 cycle. Those who missed out are heartbroken.

A look at NSW’s new 10-year arts and creative industries policy
21 commitments pave the way in the NSW Government’s new 10-year policy for the arts and creative industries.

Vietnamese museum pitches for new site to secure future
After an unresolved dispute on its original proposed location in Victoria’s Footscray, the Vietnamese Museum Australia is now being considered for Sunshine.

The battle for Temperance Hall
A significant space where artists have “free rein”, Temperance Hall is facing closure by mid-2024 due to ongoing funding woes.

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts