I half expected a response to my article yesterday about artists accusing Auguste Clown Gallery on Johnston St of theft. Below is the email I received yesterday from them, in which they confirm they are closing, and my response verbatim. These clowns are all the same: first threaten defamation then make excuses and blame someone else. Good riddance.


We were disheartened to read your article and the evident lack of journalistic ethics in seeking both sides of the story and presenting an article with factual groundings and impartiality. While it is an online blog, it is disappointing that you as an online journalist do not abide by Australian Press Council guidelines and the article borders on defamation.

 Auguste Clown Gallery will be closing shortly as the current gallery model due to a significant decline in retail trade over the past year. Similarly, you will find a large number of vacant retail shops both in Johnston Street and Brunswick Street Fitzroy and talking to other traders, we are all doing it tough business wise. It seems Brunswick Street is heading down the path of Bridge Road, with increasing rents pushing niche retailers out.

However, it is a shame that a number of artists from October and November Show last year (half of which have already been paid) have taken to social media despite being told the Gallery is consistently working through outstanding artist payments. Each week a prioritised list of artists receive payment, book-keeping is a testament to this. Artists seeking payment have been made aware of financial difficulty and we are working under the guidance of a business solicitor. If there was malicious intent, then no artists would have been paid whatsoever.

We have been proud to showcase pop surrealism in Melbourne,; and even been fortunate to provide the opportunity to bring out several leading international artists from overseas to meet their fans at our cost. It’s a shame that business issues in the past three years – such as customer cancelled lay-bys, unpaid fees by external curators and Australia international Post issues – taint the business across with the same brush when these are common issues any gallery or in fact many businesses faces.

One thing I do agree with your article is that in Australia and abroad, selling art alone, particular in a high rental retail space, is hard financially. Look around and we see galleries struggling to survive which is a loss to the cultural character of our cities, particularly in Melbourne. The rise of online sales is great for some, but nothing can compare to seeing artwork in person, connecting with the piece and the artist behind it.

My response:

Oh you poor disheartened poppet! You make some effort to be anonymous, which suggests you feel you have something to hide.

My story was about the accusations. I have no reason to trust or distrust the Twitter users who made them any more than I trust or distrust you.

I don’t need to fact check with you as the existence of the tweets is an objective fact. There is no defamation in reporting their existence.

You’ve admitted to not paying artists. There is therefore no defamation in the tweets either.

Instead of blaming the world you should take responsibility for your actions.

letter from a clown

10 thoughts on “letter from a clown

  • 25 May 2016 at 12:48 am

    Too right Brian. Whilst I understand (I don’t sympathise, but I understand) that perhaps paying artists may be delayed but keeping unsold work is blatant theft and there is no good reason for that.

  • 25 May 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Ha, and I just thought you were a blogger but it seems you are an online journalist. I am impressed

  • 26 May 2016 at 6:50 am

    Small businesses that can’t manage their cash flow. They really give me the shits and have ruined my faith in people’s good.

  • 26 May 2016 at 9:52 am

    My work was in the October 2014 show & I have neither been paid nor had my remaining work returned. Been trying to reach Cornish for weeks on end with no response & he certainly has provided no insight to any financial difficulties or intent to make payment… just silence. Furthermore it seems this has been par for the course far longer than recent history. Cry me a river Cornish. We’ve all been exceptionally patient. What did you expect?

  • 26 May 2016 at 11:07 am

    Here is the deal.

    You receive work and you display it to sell it. On sale you take a commission and then, wait for it…YOU PAY THE ARTISTS IMMEDIATELY. You don’t arse around and use the money to work out your personal business issues! That is your private problem, not that of the artist. What a freaking joke of a business person. Same old excuses as every other shady person in the art world.

    I’m glad I tipped the Fairfax media off about this story and spoke to the editor about this yesterday morning. I actually didn’t even see your article on this till yesterday afternoon. Well done for getting the word out there too. This gallery needed to be exposed so that other artists didn’t suffer and get cheated out of their hard earned money.

  • 27 May 2016 at 1:10 am

    Have you seen the new signs in the old Little Creatures on Brunswick St? I notice as well as advertising for chefs and service staff they’re also encouraging “visual artists” to get in touch. My first thought was they’re doing the old “give us your artwork for free in exchange for “exposure””… hmmm….

  • 27 May 2016 at 9:29 pm

    Just tag walls in Fitzroy, you get heaps of exposure and might even make it on fitzroyalty

  • 28 May 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Leigh, if you read this – I understand that it’s really, really tough to keep a small business afloat and you can fall into the trap of delaying payments to pay your older debts. Then before you know it it’s snowballing.
    Rather than being some con artist getting rich and cheating people on purpose like the way a lot of people are saying, I think you just got stuck and your pride and passion for this dream meant you stubbornly held out. This along with your wife’s poor health and all the pressures that has put on you gives me a lot of sympathy.
    But, there’s no excuse to block and cut off contact with people who just wanted to be paid for their paintings which you sold and pocketed the profits from. They have every right to be as angry as they are. You were effectively stealing food from them + their kids’ mouths, to put food in you + your kids’ mouths. Not OK. No excuse for that.
    Then, you were still taking artist’s work all this year (and would have continued to indefinitely?) despite not being able to pay artists from Oct/Nov shows in anything near a reasonable timeframe… still promising them in written contracts they’d be paid in 6 weeks though you knew full well that wasn’t going to happen.
    Please, sort your shit out, stop pointing the blame at everyone else like a big child, and make things right. Make contact with the artists, come up with a clear plan to pay them for their work and salvage some grace already, otherwise this will hang over your head forever.


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