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.
image of historic building Hyde Park Barracks with artist impression of artwork

What organisation gives back upwards of $500,000, after it has been signed off by government, is in the bank and an artist has agreed to the commission? You would expect the short answer to be none. Wrong.

Last week, artist Alex Seton made public on social media that his forthcoming commission at the Hyde Park Barracks (Sydney) in 2024, had been pulled. For Seton, it was not so much the disappointment of not being able to deliver an artwork (we, in the arts, all deal with unexpected knock-backs at some point, he pointed out to ArtsHub). But, rather, his concerns over the cancellation of the broader commissioning program that had locked-in blockbuster funding under the NSW Government through to 2025, and was quickly becoming a signature of the institution driving new audiences.

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Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina