Should a major
public art gallery exhibit the work of one of its own trustees in an
important exhibition? Crikey revealed earlier this week that a member
of the Victorian National Gallery’s council of trustees, Sally Smart,
had been chosen as one of the 11 Australian artists to exhibit work at
next year’s 2006 Contemporary Commonwealth Landmarks exhibition.

It’s
completely inappropriate for a board member or trustee of any
Australian or international gallery to be eligible for exhibition in
their own gallery, says prominent art commentator Jane Rankin-Reid.

“Being
on the board is more important than exerting your sphere of influence,”
Rankin-Reid told Crikey, and called for Australian galleries to make a
hard-and-fast conflict of interest rule to ensure board members can’t
be seen to be receiving largesse from their own galleries.

“It’s
a potent example of the obtuse use of the position,” she said. “It’s
sending the message that in the art world you need to be either
sleeping with someone or know someone (to get your work shown).”

Crikey
understands that the issue is causing quite a storm at the NGV since
hitting inboxes on Monday, although officially the gallery denies that
much of a fuss has been made over the decision.

Rankin-Reid said
Australians had a very ambiguous view of what the Australian art
community actually did and decisions like these just make it harder for
artists and galleries to spin a good public image.

A
spokesperson for the gallery has told Crikey that “the NGV does not
preclude the display of work by artists who are NGV staff members or
NGV Trustees, however we do not purchase their work during their tenure
at the NGV.” We’re still waiting to hear back from Council of Trustees
President Allan Myers.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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