Just as well I didn’t have money riding on it. I was wrong yesterday when I took a punt that out-of-work curator Geoffrey Smith was about to join Stuart Purvis at Australian Galleries.
In response to my speculation about Smith’s future, Purvis rang late yesterday insisting that he had no intention of employing the Australian art specialist, who quit the National Gallery of Victoria a week ago as part of the settlement of a legal dispute.
While acknowledging that Smith was a font of art knowledge, Purvis said the idea of giving him a job “would never have occurred to me”. “I wish him well and his knowledge would be valuable somewhere but not at Australian Galleries.”
My misguided speculation about a Smith/Purvis union was prompted by a report on the weekend that Smith was poised to announce his next career move “probably with a leading commercial gallery network”.
Smith’s partner, Gary Singer, in an interview with The Weekend Australian, gave the impression that the curator was in big demand, claiming that “the phone’s been running hot”.
“He’s a world expert on a large number of artists — he’s hot property.” But where are all these job offers coming from? Crikey’s contacted the two leading auction houses, Sotheby’s and Deutscher/Menzies, and both said they had no intention of hiring Smith. Second tier auction house Joel Fine Art also ruled out offering Smith a job.
One hilarious (better make that perverse) but extremely remote possibility would be Savill Galleries, owned by the larger-than-life Denis Savill, an arch-rival of Smith’s ex-partner, South Yarra art dealer Robert Gould. The bitter rivalry between Gould and Savill goes back many years and includes the period when, according to Smith, he was intimately involved in the running of Gould’s business. It was Smith’s claims about his involvement with Gould Galleries that landed him in trouble with the NGV in the first place.
One well-placed art world source told Crikey the most likely possibility is that Smith would go out on his own as a private consultant.