A few weeks back, Terry Bracks, the wife of the Victorian Premier, launched a book on the art of Albert Tucker. Perhaps, with the benefit of hindsight, she might have thought better of it, or at least have preferred a different venue. The book launch was held at Melbourne Town Hall and hosted by the city’s Deputy Lord Mayor, Gary Singer.

As Crikey readers will be aware, Councillor Singer is the partner/main squeeze/significant other of Geoffrey Smith, the National Gallery of Victoria curator who is now the subject of a conflict-of-interest investigation.

Mrs Bracks launched the book in her capacity as patron of the Heide Museum of Modern Art, which reopened amid much fanfare this week after a multi-million dollar renovation, including a new wing devoted to the work of Albert Tucker.

The book is by Gavin Fry, the director of Newcastle Regional Art Gallery. Fry pays special thanks in his foreword to Geoffrey Smith for his contribution, which involved compiling a list of Tucker’s exhibitions.

Smith is believed to have acted as an art adviser to the Tucker estate, controlled by the artist’s widow, Barbara. Two hundred of Tucker’s works along with his papers and extensive library of art books has been donated to Heide. Works from the estate are also said to have been sold through Gould Galleries, owned by Smith’s ex-partner Robert Gould. This is the business that Smith claims he worked “assiduously” to promote during his fourteen year relationship with Gould.

Perhaps Smith’s involvement with the Tucker estate will be one of the things that NGV director Gerard Vaughan will have to probe as he conducts his formal investigation into Smith’s extra-curricula activities.

While Vaughan is at it, he should also take a close look at the NGV’s records of donations of artworks made by former gallery executives.

He might discover that one former executive donated a large amount of work, most of it of questionable value to an art museum but of enormous value to the executive in terms of the tax deduction he would have been able to claim.

Peter Fray

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