In a stunningly audacious move, Geoffrey Smith and his lawyers went to the
Federal Court this morning in an effort to be reinstated in his job at the
National Gallery of Victoria, only hours before the big exhibition he spent two
years curating was due to be unveiled to the media.

Smith was suspended from his job as curator of Australian art after an
internal investigation found he had a case to answer over admissions he made
about his involvement in the commercial gallery business of his ex-partner
Robert Gould.

In the hearing before Justice Marshall, previewed in
this report,
Smith’s lawyers sought an injunction to prevent the NGV continuing its
conflict-of-interest investigation and to allow Smith to return to his job in
time for this afternoon’s media launch of the Charles Blackman exhibition and
tonight’s VIP cocktail party.

In addition to Smith’s legal team headed by Tim North QC, acting on
instructions from law firm Holding Redlich, there were three
separate teams of lawyers appearing for The NGV’s trustees, the gallery’s
director, Gerard Vaughan, and the head of finance, Liz Grainger, who was in
charge of the internal investigation.

Also, as an indication of the interest the Bracks Government is finally
showing in this matter, there was a lawyer from the Department of Premier and
Cabinet observing proceedings from the public gallery.

Smith, with freshly cut hair and wearing a dark pin-striped suit, sat
behind his legal team and was accompanied by his current partner and Melbourne
Deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer.

In his opening statement, Mr North QC said he would also be seeking an
order to restrain the NGV from using Smith’s personal records. He made mention
of an archive on Australian art that Smith had been compiling since he was an
adolescent.

Only minutes after it began the hearing was adjourned to allow the parties
to hold private discussions. There is still no word on the progress of those
talks. At this stage it seems Smith won’t make the media launch but there’s
stlll a chance he will get to the cocktail party.

And even if he doesn’t have an official invite, Crikey understands that Ray
Gill, arts editor for The Age, has told Smith he can go as his partner
for the evening.

Peter Fray

A lot can happen in 3 months.

3 months is a long time in 2020. Join us to make sense of it all.

Get you first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

12 weeks for $12