How
reassuring to see that National Gallery of Victoria director Gerard
Vaughan has returned from abroad personally to take charge of the
investigation into the conflict-of-interest matter involving senior
curator Geoffrey Smith. As Corrie Perkin reported in The Australian yesterday, Vaughan will report his findings to the NGV’s board of trustees.

If
the board of trustees is to be the ultimate arbiter in this case, it’s
worth remembering how the board handled an accusation of conflict of
interest levelled at one of its own members.

As Crikey
reported in October last year, gallery trustee Sally Smart was among
only five Australian artists included in a major NGV exhibition
showcasing contemporary art from all Commonwealth countries held in
conjunction with the Commonwealth Games. To many people in the art
world, it was a bad look for the gallery to be giving a coveted spot in
such a prestigious event to one of its own trustees.

The board
supported the decision of curators to include Smart. And it is possible
that Geoffrey Smith thought his bosses were in no position to complain
about his relationship with a commercial dealer.

The NGV’s
deputy director, Frances Lindsay, is married to long-time art dealer
Robert Lindsay. Unlike Geoffrey Smith, who claims that he helped to
build the reputation of his ex-partner’s gallery business, there’s no
evidence that Ms Lindsay was in any way involved in running her
husband’s old gallery in Flinders Lane.

But it could be argued she was a customer of sorts. During her time as
director of the Potter Gallery at Melbourne University, Ms Lindsay was
on a committee that decided on acquisitions for the Vizard collection.
More than a few works in the collection bankrolled by the disgraced
businessman were purchased from the Robert Lindsay Gallery.

Peter Fray

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