The 20 most read visual arts stories of 2019

From switching off our phones, to exposing non-paid artist fees, the burden of activism and how to be a better ally for diversity – these are the stories that captured your interest in 2019.

I love getting to the end of the year and looking back over the statistics to see what were the most read stories. It speaks of a cultural zeitgeist and points to the topics that, as a sector, you were most concerned about, passionate about, and curious about.

Here are ArtsHub’s Top 20 stories for visual arts readers in 2019:

1. Wellness as the new disruptor

Top of this list as the most read story in 2019 was one that came out of REMIX Sydney, a paper given by Mindshare’s Creative Chief Creative Officer, Sam Turley on wellness as the new disruptor.

2. A toolkit to help kick-start your financial stability

Kicking off the year, Create NSW launched a no-frills guide on how to successfully generate income as a small to medium arts organisation or creative practitioner. Clearly a need was answered, with readers ranking this one high.

3. NAVA responds to persistent NSW political interference

NAVA Director Esther Anatolitis harshly criticised the NSW Minister for the Arts on political interference in funding decisions.

4. On becoming: a conversation with transgender artist Cassils

A one-on-one interview with Canadian-born transgender artist Cassils, during their time in Perth, where Cassils performed and presented a new body of work at PICA for Perth Festival.

5. How bold would we like the Australia Council to be?

The question says it all. Another opinion piece by NAVA Director Esther Anatolitis, charging punters to act and voice their thoughts on the Australia Council’s next Strategic Plan.

6. Tony Costa takes the 2019 Archibald Prize, toppling the favourite

A perennial on the list – the Archibald announcement always captures the interest of visual arts readers.

7. FACT CHECK: The real impact of the National Institutions Inquiry

Reports are usually dull, but this one caught our readers’ interest. In the wake of the 2019 Budget, one could be forgiven for missing the news that the long-awaited report, Telling Australia’s story – and why it’s important: Report on the inquiry into Canberra’s national institution was tabled the following day in Parliament (3 April). In all, a total of 16 institutions were put under the bureaucratic microscope. And regardless of scale, the message of the Report was consistent: ‘The Committee was concerned that our institutions are not working together to communicate the shared importance of their telling of our national story.’

8. On being an ally for diversity

Writers Pilar Kasat and Veronica Pardo took a look at Diversity Arts Australia’s seminal report, Shifting the Balance: Cultural Diversity in Leadership within the Australian Arts, Screen and Creative Sectors, released in September.

9. Sydney librarian discovers rare drawing by Renaissance artist

Academic Liaison Librarian at the University of Sydney, Kim Wilson, discovered a red chalk drawing of the Madonna and Child on the back page of a 1497 copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy in the University of Sydney’s Rare Books collection.

10. Sure, promise me an artist fee – then not pay me

Thirty two artists affected by the Ballarat Biennale of Australian Art (BOAA) banded together to expose unpaid contracts.

11. It started with a T-shirt…

Advice for the arts from top corporate brands Mercedes-Benz, Uber Eats, Four Pillars Gin and Culture Amp on embracing the unexpected to create a community – a conversation presented at Vivid Ideas.

12. The burden of responsibility as an activist

Nothing comes easy, especially with the art of disability. Three international leaders talk about the burdens and wins of activism, visibility, failure and collaboration as pathways to greater inclusion. This discussion was presented at The Arts Activated 2019 Conference in August.

13. Disability Arts: the last avant-garde?

A disability-led panel took the pulse on aligning rhetoric and action when it comes to inclusivity and equality, in a discussion presented by SAMAG (Sydney Arts Management Advisory Group).

14. A Lesson from Gen X women to Gen Y creatives

From mentorship to resilience, patience and power, Gen X women have learnt to navigate our male-dominated world for change – and Gen Y are listening.

15. Disability access versus disability-led?

This article took a look at one of the greatest hurdles today, recognising why we need to shift the conversation from disability access and awareness to disability-led and employment.

16. The return of Moon Mania, but are we asking the right questions?

On the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, this article explored why Australia’s space race is caught in nostalgia, asked whether it’s responsible to glorify space advancement at the cost of society, and looked at how artists are shifting that conversation.

17. Australia’s Culture Building Boom: Museums

Australia’s cultural sector is under scaffolding as it faces a building boom. During the year ArtsHub took a look at galleries and museums as they rebuild – but it was those new museums that really caught the eye of  our readers.

18. How wall colour manipulates the audience

ArtsHub spoke with six curators on the merits of painting gallery walls to heighten audience engagement, build narrative or just make the artworks pop.

19. First Nations leadership is about letting go, and holding on

In a Vivid Ideas panel this year, Indigenous professionals discussed what First Nations leadership looks like, and why it might offer a more viable model for bringing authority to an Indigenous-led arts centre. Sydney Festival Director and Noonuccal Nuugi man, Wesley Enoch, believes we are facing a tipping point globally. ‘Most structures in North America, Europe and here in Australia, the centre is being vacated, and for those of us who have lived on the fringes for so long, we have the skills to now populate the centre.’

20. Turning our phones off for creative inner health

We all decry how little time we have today, how all-consuming our lives have become. The question is, what role do we play in fueling that insanity? Author Sebastian Smee, musician Holly Throsby and tech psychologist Jocelyn Brewer came together for the second annual Mark Colvin Conversation to discuss how we need to switch off in order to embrace our inner lives.

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