Planning for a blockbuster exhibition scheduled for next March at the National
Gallery of Victoria is said to be in disarray because of the
conflict-of-interest case involving senior curator Geoffrey Smith.

is jointly curating Australian Impressionism with fellow NGV curator
Terence Lane. The exhibition will feature 300 works by the big names of the
famed Heidelberg school – Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, Charles Conder
and Tom Roberts – as well as the work of their little known colleague Jane

Smith, who has been stood down by the NGV, has taken the
gallery to the Federal Court, seeking to be reinstated to his job as curator of
Australian art and to stop the gallery’s internal inquiry into his involvement
in the commercial gallery business of his ex-partner Robert Gould.

Earlier this month, Justice Marshall ordered the NGV to suspend its
investigation into Smith, pending the outcome of mediation and a possible trial.
The judge also ordered that the gallery hand over all copies of Smith’s
extensive archive on Australian artists which had been stored on his work
computer. The court was told that Smith had been collating the archive since he
was an adolescent.

A source has told Crikey that Smith’s files relating
to next year’s exhibition were included in the material that the gallery was
forced to surrender. According to the source, Smith has responsibility for 50%
of the show, so the absence of both the curator and his files is causing a major
headache for the gallery as it continues to prepare for the exhibition.

In response to questions from Crikey, an NGV spokesperson sent us the
following message that failed to make any reference to Geoffrey Smith or his

The exhibition is on track to be one of the most successful
exhibitions the NGV has presented in many years. This has been a project that
Senior Curator Terence Lane has been involved with for almost ten years. Major
loans have been finalised from a range public and private collections.
Preparations for the exhibition are proceeding apace.

court-ordered mediation is scheduled to be completed by the end of the month. If
the parties fail to reach a settlement, the dispute is scheduled go to trial at
the end of September.