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Natasha Matila-Smith on dicks: The WMA edition

What’s your WMA dick story?

There is a WMA who is in a lot of press lately and winning awards etc.  He was given a solo show at a dealer gallery here and I bumped into him

I asked him ‘How was the opening?’ and his surly and drunk response was ‘I didn’t sell anything’

and then silence followed

It just irritated me that instead of being grateful for having a show, he was only concerned about selling work.

Yeah, he sounds super entitled.  Do you think the art crowd in Syds are aware of the white male artist entitlement?

WMA is huuuuuge here – perhaps because of a larger population…I don’t know

I was talking with a friend once (a mixed race male artist here in Sydney) and he was telling me how it’s almost like a joke here that the WMA privilege is so strong

We also talked about the Chuck Close exhibition which just closed at the MCA recently and how it was basically just another WMA getting a huge show when there are so many more interesting people out there…this was also at the same time that the AGNSW had the pop art show, again predominantly WMA

Maybe to put it within a wider context, do you have any other stories of WMA in Sydney?

I’ve been curious about how Australia is going art wise, when there’s so much controversy about the treatment of indigenous Australians at the moment.

Do you think this kinda attitude, a nonchalance about indigenous Australians as citizens, affects the art industry in Sydney(or Australia)?

I kind of have this idea of artists in general as being quite left wing politically and so as people, they’re maybe more sensitive to social and political issues, and the WMA phenomenon is kind of almost ignorant of those things.

I think it affects everywhere – of course there are people doing some great work and showing indigienous artists and really trying to fight against the WMA patriarchy

but I feel like it is so ingrained in history/society that it is really hard to shake

I met a female painter at a studio open day and she was doing work about male artists taking credit for everything throughout history and I found this great little note in her studio

(it’s from my instagram)


Just out of curiosity, as an artist/curator, what would you suggest would help in eliminating this kind of attitude towards art? Is there a need to eliminate it?

the WMA attitude?

yeah, i dunno if attitude was really the right word, but what do you think should change, if anything?

We will naturally as humans, always find something to complain about but I do feel lately the art scene in NZ and AUS has just become so predictably boring

same people getting the same shows, same people winning the awards etc etc

It is not that I want shows that feature indigienous or female artists to become this boring, samey kind of thing but rather that it becomes the norm

and that having a WMA alongside a female or indigenous artist in a show means that they gets just as much press as the WMA does (if their artist practice and integrity warrants it of course – I’m not saying give out platitudes)

Although sounding incredibly jaded I do have hope and am excited about things I have seen – the list of diverse, female curators around the world who are killing it, the pacific arts symposium in melbourne, MCA’s work with indigenous communities….there are people who are really trying to change things and I think it can surely only get better from here.

haha from jaded to incredibly optimistic

I guess one of the best things that I have heard recently which was said about a WMA by another WMA was ‘It is so boring when male artists base their practice around heartbreak’

Natasha Matila-Smith with Talia Smith


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