This year’s Sydney Biennale ended six weeks ago but there are mutterings in the art world about a glaring conflict of interest involving the biennale’s director and one of the artists he chose for the event.

It went unnoticed at the time, but it is now dawning on a growing number of senior figures in the visual arts that Charles Merewether gave a spot in the biennale to one of the people who sat on the selection panel that chose him as director of the event.

With 85 artists from 44 countries included in the three-month, multi-venue contemporary art fest, it seems few people saw the significance of Merewether’s inclusion of Australian painter Imants Tillers. Given that Tillers is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading contemporary artists, he was considered a more than worthy choice. However what most people didn’t realise until now is that Tillers sat on the panel that selected Merewether from a hotly contested field of candidates to curate the event.

A source close to the selection panel has expressed disquiet about the matter to Crikey, pointing out that Merewether’s inclusion of Tillers in the biennale could be seen, rightly or wrongly, as a reward for his vote.

I have been trying for the past month to contact Merewether and Tillers but neither has responded to my messages. I have also sought comment from the Sydney Biennale management but have received no response.

Peter Fray

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