You have to
spare a thought for Gerard Vaughan, the director of the National
Gallery of Victoria, now conducting a conflict-of-interest
investigation into senior curator Geoffrey Smith.

If Vaughan is
to do a thorough probe of Smith’s activities, he is going to have to
wade deep into the NGV’s archives to look at acquisition records,
catalogue records and documents recording loans of work to major
exhibitions to establish whether Smith’s admitted extra-curricular
activities at his ex-partner’s commercial gallery business conflicted
with his taxpayer-supported job as a curator.

There are rumours circulating today that Vaughan has called in forensic investigators to assist with the probe.

would have already seen the affidavits filed in the Victorian Supreme
Court by Smith and his ex-partner Robert Gould as part of their fight
over artworks and other property that they acquired during their
14-year relationship. Smith claims he worked “assiduously” to promote
Gould’s business.

Perhaps he should study the records of another
court case involving Smith, Gould and the other man in their lives,
Melbourne’s Deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer. Singer, who has a day job as
a solicitor, was a long-time business associate of Gould and is now
romantically attached to Smith.

In a drawn-out legal saga that
began in 2001 and finally ended in the High Court in late 2004, Singer
represented Jinx Nolan, the stepdaughter of Sid Nolan, in a battle over
the ownership of three of the late artist’s paintings that his widow,
Mary, had offered for sale through Sotheby’s. Geoffrey Smith gave
evidence as an expert witness on behalf of Jinx. In the end she lost
the case and faced a legal bill said to be in excess of $1.5 million,
more than double the value of the pictures in dispute.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey