Michael Brand, Director of the AGNSW

Jeremy Eccles | 29.10.14

Author: Jeremy Eccles
News source: The Monthly

There have been some pretty controversial decisions made since Michael Brand took over the Directorship of the Art Gallery of NSW more than a year ago. Many a senior curator fled in advance of his coming; decent, efficient people have been 'let go'; a huge amount of current effort is going into the planning of a vast extension that may turn out to be an architectural marvel, but may also reveal the thinness of the permanent art collection and shortage of great curators.

And yet, a recent interview with Brand in The Monthly magazine (August issue) revealed an absolutely unknown side of the Director which Aboriginal Art Directory readers may care to bear in mind as the months pass by. To put this quote into context, it was said as Brand justified his mighty expansion on the grounds that exhibition exchange is the new name of the international game amongst the leading art museums – with his connections amongst that group a key factor in his appointment. From the other side, though, it was also spoken by a man who has made no attempt to replace his Senior Curator of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art – Hetti Perkins, who left before he arrived. The status of that department has been diminished by that failure.

But, who could complain about Brand's view of the Australian art world???? Apart, that is, from non-Indigenous artists!
"What would the AGNSW bring to a grand dance of cultural sharing among the world’s museums? What does it have – what art does any Australian museum hold – that the rest of the world would particularly want to see? Aboriginal art is the only thing, and the complexities of indigenous culture in Australia mean it remains an avant-garde interest even here. When the Royal Academy mounted a vast Australia exhibition in London late last year, the indigenous art was the only part of the show not viewed with contempt."

Wow! As someone who read many reviews from London a year ago (and received the thoughts of friends who'd visited), I can't agree with Brand's views on contempt for the art. Contempt, where it existed in some pretty ignorant commentary (see 1/10/13), was much more precisely directed at the curation - heavily influenced as it was by the National Gallery in Canberra. Perhaps they're more sensitive to criticism up there than Aussie artists?

Whatever – we at Aboriginal Art Directory look forward eagerly to assisting Michael Brand and the AGNSW in bringing Aboriginal art out of the avant-garde and into the mainstream! Mind you, my views on that don't actually include the AGNSW; I've been calling for a separate Indigenous Cultural Institution for a long time now which would introduce the ancient culture and then let the art speak for itself.

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Contact Details

Gallery: Art Gallery of NSW
Contact: Cara Pinchbeck - Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
Email: artmail@ag.nsw.gov.au
Telephone: +61 2 9225 1700 or 1
Address: Art Gallery Road Sydney Sydney 2000 NSW



Further Research

Gallery: Art Gallery of NSW

News Tags: AGNSW | Jeremy Eccles | Michael Brand | Royal Academy

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