Australia loses major arts centre to bankruptcy

Australia loses major arts centre to bankruptcy


norman lebrecht

May 05, 2020

Carriageworks, Australia’s largest contemporary arts centre, has called in administrators in a huge blow to the national arts scene.

Carriageworks generated 75% of its own revenue from such events as Sydney Writers’ Festival, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, and the design event Semi Permanent.

Following the earlier loss of shifts for casual staff, in early-April we stood down almost half of our core staff and asked those remaining to move to a three-day week. Focussing on essential work only we have been striving to find a way through the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown,” Carriageworks CEO Blair French said today.

“Since opening in 2007, Carriageworks has enjoyed the support of both the NSW and Federal Governments, and the generosity of its many partners and donors. During this time it has become a Sydney institution attracting one million visitors a year to the site in Redfern and up to 5000 people every Saturday to the Carriageworks Farmers Market. But with restrictions on social gatherings likely to remain in place for some time to come, the Board determined that it had no alternative but to place the company into Voluntary Administration.”



  • Ron Swanson says:

    Don’t think of it as going bankrupt , think of it as leaving early to avoid the rush. This, unfortunately, will not be the last arts organisation to go bust. I suspect some major names might go soon.

    • Sue Sonata Form says:

      I am far more sanguine about this. People will be desperate for the arts after being in confinement; it may return as an altogether re-formed kind of ‘baby’.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        It just means that the organisation doesn’t pay its creditors. As soon as the crisis is over, a new organisation will take its place, providing the same things as before.

  • Ramesh Nair says:

    The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Opera House is poised to take over the performance space : ‘the Opera House is best placed to create a viable public programme appealing to Carriagework’s traditional patrons [ …] A source with knowledge described the move as ‘a Sydney power play’. Carriageworks, the source said, had shifted cultural focus away from the harbour to communities and artists in a way that an organisation like the Opera House never could.

    Presumably the term ‘harbour’ above is metonymy for arts events that have gained significant corporate sponsorship traction, such as the Writers Festival, Fashion week, international contemporary art events.

    An intriguing paradox that holds internationally is that high density events that preferentially attract the middle-aged/senior demographic most vulnerable to the bat plague : symphonic music, opera, mainstream book festivals etc might seem the most threatened in terms of requirements for social distancing. Nonetheless, these have the most institutional clout and disposable income from their patrons to ensure they are in general the best placed to be resurrected after the pandemic.

  • Graeme Gee says:

    Still, the interior of the Sydney Town Hall is an odd choice of accompanying photograph, being several km away, and nothing to do with Carriageworks at all…

  • Philip Edwards says:

    The picture is of the Sydney Town Hall.