The exhibition focus was on the international corporations and the middlemen, of private and government, who foster and profit from the international trade in arms.
The trade in arms stretch from light weapons such as the iconic AK47 through to the new wave of technology driven weapons epitomised by the unmanned Drone.
Before passing away in 2012, artist Michael Callaghan was working towards his second solo exhibition of new work at the Damien Minton Gallery. His widow, Bronwyn Barwell with Michael’s close friend and colleague, Ruth Waller, decided the show must go on. Using researched material by Callaghan a number of artists were invited to contribute work based around the theme of the globalisation of war and the role of the international arms trade.
‘These men and women in grey suits with neat suburban lives far removed from their victims are real perpetrators of war and the natural opponents of negotiated settlement. War is fuelled by global economic imperatives. Countries far removed from the zone of conflict are profiting every minute of every day from the arms trade. Their victims grow exponentially. Their blood money powers the growth of first world companies and economies.
This exhibition was borne from a commitment to community in the widest sense and fuelled by the anger at the sheer wrongness of a world where negotiated settlement is held to ransom by the merchants of war and frustration at the duplicity and inertia of our political leaders to come to the table on an Arms Trade Treaty. Merchants of War is also about the more intimate community we inhabit as friends and colleagues who have come together to both pay tribute to Michael and his artistic and political legacy and in solidarity, to continue the tradition of politicised art practise.
This was to be Michael’s last exhibition – he had a number of works in progress. The night before he died, he said he didn’t know if he had enough strength to get the work done. My reply was all we can do is try and thanks to you all we have succeeded. Michael’s practise was collective in nature. The AK47 sculpture could not have been realised without Greg McLachlan’s fine computer rendering in dissecting the connecting layers, OR Greg Page’s considerable carpentry skills in assembling the gun. As Greg McLachlan commented, Michael always surrounded himself with artisans – the AK47 is as much a product of their skills as of Michael’s vision.
This exhibition in its entirety was testament to the power of collective practise.’ Bronwyn Barwell, Opening Address. Contributing Artists - Alison Alder, Bernadette Boscacci, Tim Burns, Elaine Campaner, Pierre Cavalan, Aleksander Danko & Jude Walton, Pam Debenham, Janice Fieldsend, Caren Florance, Peter Gardiner, Michal Glikson, Bruce Goold, Therese Kenyon, Leonie Lane, Chips Mackinolty, Jan Mackay, Marie McMahon, Peter McMahon, Reg Mombassa, Eric Niebuhr, Sarina Noordhuis, Jason O’Brien,TJ Phillipson,Tim Price, Reko Rennie, Alex Selenitsch, Tony Thorne, Ruth Waller.