Is a major art institution the most appropriate body to conduct an investigation into possible conflict-of-interest activities by one of its own curators?

That’s the question posed today by the NGV’s former spinner, Corrie Perkin, in a lengthy piece in The Oz on the conflict-of-interest saga that’s gripped Melbourne’s art world over the past few weeks. Perkin casts doubt on the effectiveness of the National Gallery of Victoria’s internal investigation into extra-curricular activities of its curator Geoffrey Smith.

The investigation was launched in the wake of publicity surrounding an affidavit Smith filed in the Supreme Court in a property dispute with his ex-partner, art dealer Robert Gould. Smith claimed he played a significant role in Gould’s art business.

Perkin says with the gallery under so much scutiny “it does raise the question of whether an independent investigation may have been more appropriate”.

The investigation is being headed by NGV director Gerard Vaughan, who will report the findings to the gallery’s trustees. Crikey has been told that a forensic investigator has been called in from Gadens Lawyers to assist with the probe.

The NGV told Perkin that Smith was still in charge of the major Charles Blackman exhibition due to open on August 11. Smith has been holidaying in Italy for the past three weeks with his current partner, Melbourne Deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer, where the couple have been celebrating Singer’s 50th birthday.

Peter Fray

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