Geoffrey Smith – the curator at the centre
of a conflict-of-interest investigation at the National Gallery of Victoria –
has contradicted himself in sworn statements he made in two separate legal
proceedings.

In an affidavit filed in the Victorian
Supreme Court in March this year, Smith claimed he “worked assiduously in
building the reputation of Gould Galleries” (the business owned
by his partner of fourteen years, Robert Gould).

But in evidence he gave in another case in
the Supreme Court in late 2002, Smith denied he had ever engaged in any
“private consultancies”. That earlier case involved a dispute between Sir Sidney Nolan’s stepdaughter
and his widow over the ownership of three of the artist’s paintings.

Both Robert Gould and Geoffrey Smith gave
evidence in support of the stepdaughter, Jinx Nolan, who was represented by
Gary Singer, a long-time business associate of Gould and Smith’s current
romantic partner.

Smith was in the witness box on 10 December, 2002 when he was asked a series of questions about work he did outside
the NGV.

He admitted that he had curated exhibitions
for public galleries, conducted lectures for auctions houses and written for
university publications. He said if he was ever paid for such work he would
direct the money back to the NGV.

According to the transcript, this line of
questioning continued for some minutes until Smith was finally asked: “Have you ever
engaged in any private consultancies?”
Smith replied: “No I haven’t.”

Contrast that evidence to his affidavit
filed a few months back in his legal proceedings against Gould. (The pair are
fighting over ownership of artworks and real estate acquired during their
relationship.)

Smith goes on for page after page of his
14-page affidavit providing examples of his intimate involvement in advising
both Gould and his clients about artworks.

Here’s but one example:

I introduced the defendant (Gould)
to many individuals who were major collectors of Australian art. The defendant
and I would entertain these persons at home and in return be invited to their
homes. I was able to advise these collectors on certain aspects of their
collections, including correct and original titles, dates, provenance,
exhibition history and literature – information which was previously unknown to
them but which led to additional custom to Gould Galleries.

Robert Gould, in his opposing affidavit, disputes the extent of
Smith’s involvement in the business but does acknowledge that Smith did do some
work, for which Gould claims he paid him.

Smith’s testimony in the property-dispute case is completely at odds
with his evidence in the Nolan case. They both can’t be right. That he swore to
the truth before a court in both instances is a serious matter.

Peter Fray

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