In Conversation Natalia Bradshaw

"This will shake things up for a long time. But, good and sound practice will bubble up, and innovation will reign. Creativity will also be important in all realms of life".

As part of informality’s ongoing commitment of providing insights into the art world, we have decided to catch up with some other art world friends to produce a weekly feature to see what they’re up to and how they have adapted into a COVID practice.


Where are you isolating?

At home in Potts Point (an inner-city area of Sydney blessedly surrounded by parks and the harbour) with plant-filled patio,s surrounded by art, piles of books, and loads of Facetime/Zoom/Whatsapp with friends and family.  I’ve actually been in self-isolation for more than three weeks. My eldest daughter is a nurse in one of our leading teaching hospitals…  

What were you enjoying pre-COVID and how have you adapted this into your new routine?

Thankfully I have a strong inner life that’s keeping me occupied all my life!

We thrive on positivity and, we’re interested to know what positive impact you see stemming from this for the future of the arts?

It’s hard to be very positive at the moment, knowing that so many will lose their jobs and the visual and performing arts will take a huge hit.  This will shake things up for a long time. But, good and sound practice will bubble up, and innovation will reign. Creativity will also be important in all realms of life – business, medicine etc.  It’s very exciting being so involved with one of the world’s leading art & design faculties (UNSW Art & Design – I’m Chair of the faculty’s Advisory Council). 3D printing, AR, performance, Big Data visualisation, drawing etc will play a more central role going forward, especially when led by awesome professorial staff.   That will be very exciting, but it will all be very different to what we’ve been used to. Maybe the art ‘market’ got a bit out of hand and will settle back down to a more sustainable level? Good artists will also help to lead in climate change awareness action – something that can’t be sidelined given what a massive global threat climate change is and will continue to be.  Having grown up in Latin America, I really respect Pachamama (Mother Earth) – this pandemic seems to be all about our putting too much pressure on her…

What’s the latest artist, museum, or gallery that has inspired you?

Ouf.  Where to start?  The Art Gallery of South Australia has a yearly exhibition in January Tarnanthi that focuses on gobsmackingly beautiful Australian Indigenous art as part of contemporary practice…the Bienal de Cuenca is like no other biennial event, housed in buildings hundreds of years old in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Cuenca, Ecuador; this year’s Sydney Biennale is ground-breaking, focusing on the edges of Indigenous practices, queer theories etc with artist-led performance and public programs at its heart – it closed to the public within a week of the opening but can be viewed online.  I was so excited to be celebrating my upcoming 60th in May with friends in Torino, with the Castello di Rivoli putting on very special things for us as none of us had yet been to that exemplary museum – poor, poor Italy…

Natalia Bradshaw being given The Gift of Song at Lee Ming Wei’s performance at the Art Gallery of South Australia January 2020

Planned books / current books your reading? 

Just finished Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta and The Yield by Tara June Winch.  About to finish Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry, then get into Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.  I won’t mention the books I started and just couldn’t bother finishing…

What channels do you turn to for research and inspiration?

TED, heaps of excellent podcasts: The New Yorker Radio Hour, The Happiness Lab, Malcolm Gladwell, Rear Vision (ABC Radio), Here’s the Thing, Desert Island Discs…and Friends on TV for light relief!  Watched the movie The Big Short yesterday…gulp…

Top podcast recommendation?

Don’t we love good podcasts?!  Pre-empted this question above…

How are you staying informed about what artists are doing?

Through good quality and well-written visual arts news feeds – Including Art News, The Art Newspaper, The New York Times, Hypoallergenic, Instagram…friends and colleagues…  We’re stuffed if the internet goes down!

How do you think artists will react to our current circumstances? 

Oh, that’s too difficult to answer – everyone reacts so differently and uniquely.  The present situation, and the economic knock-on effects that will follow, will be devastating and rock all that’s been familiar in the art world and indeed globally socio-economically as well.  I don’t think anyone can correctly predict at this stage. All I know is that dedicated artists haven’t stopped thinking and creating. Though the economic divide will be devastating. We have to be nimble.

What excites you about the changes which we are already seeing to museums, galleries and other art-related institutions?

The embracing of innovation and ‘thinking outside the box ‘– evidenced by terrific on-line exhibitions and opening up to a different way of doing things going forward.  ‘Nimble’ is the word I’m using, a descriptor a good artist friend used a few weeks ago to describe how we must adapt…

And I have to add that COVID-19 being a first-world problem is what I think has rocked the boat so fundamentally.  The third world has been dealing with such pandemics for ages. Nature’s force is now hitting us and we MUST stop the frantic ways we used to live.


About Natalia Bradshaw

Natalia is renowned as one of Australia’s most senior and respected art consultants and advocates. 

Natalia’s not-for-profit roles include Chair of the Advisory Council for UNSW’s Faculty of Art & Design and Trustee of the Australian Museum Foundation. Past Chair and Director of the Australian Art Events Foundation (Art Month); Australia Council Peer sitting on the first six-year funding review; past Director Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park (GASP!); past Advisory Board member of the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize; past Member AGNSW CCB Committee. Named as one of ‘The Most Powerful People in the Australian Art World’.