Is Geoffrey Smith about to announce his next career move — a job with a commercial gallery that (for a change) won’t involve any suggestion of conflict of interest? If he is, my tip is that the ex-National Gallery of Victoria curator will join Australian Galleries, owned by Stuart Purvis. There are other possibilities, but a job with Purvis appears the most likely option for Smith.

The rehabilitation of Geoffrey Smith began in earnest on the weekend with the breathless assistance of the broadsheets. Both The Weekend Australian and The Age were talking up Smith’s job prospects in the wake of his resignation from the NGV. Smith resigned last week as part of the settlement of a nasty legal battle, in which Smith had contested his suspension from duty over conflict-of-interest allegations. The allegations stemmed from admissions Smith made about his involvement in his ex-partner’s gallery business.

The NGV’s ex-spinner, Corrie Perkin, reported in The Oz that Smith was on the verge of announcing the next step in his brilliant career, “probably with a leading commercial gallery network”.

There are very few gallery businesses in Australia that could be described as networks, with operations in more than one city. Two obvious ones are Savill Galleries and Australian Galleries, both having branches in Sydney and Melbourne. Savill is a longstanding and bitter rival of Smith’s former squeeze Robert Gould. It’s my understanding that Savill is not warmly disposed toward Smith.

On the other hand, Stuart Purvis, at Australian Galleries, is known to be on good terms with Smith. The ex-curator and his current boyfriend, Melbourne’s Deputy Lord Mayor Gary Singer, were among the throng at Australian Galleries in Collingwood recently for the opening night party for Jeffrey Smart’s exhibition.

Smith and Singer featured in a page three puff piece in Saturday’s edition of The Age, photographed escorting their mums to the Blackman show, which Smith curated but had been barred from attending until his resignation. In what was either an extraordinary coincidence or a lousy show of editorial judgement, right alongside Gabriella Coslovich’s cheesy reportage of Smith and Singer’s return to the gallery was another yarn portraying Singer as a cultural visionary.

In a spectacular example of non-news, the Deputy Lord Mayor proposed turning the disused offices of Flinders St Station into artists’ studios, an idea that’s been trotted out umpteen times in the past only to be quietly abandoned because no-one’s prepared to stump up for the renovation costs.

I have sought comment from both Geoffrey Smith and Stuart Purvis as to whether they’re about to sign a deal but neither has responded.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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