We’ve been told David Gonski, widely regarded as one of the powerful business figures in Australia, will be the next president of the Art Gallery of NSW board of trustees. If true, he would succeed Transfield boss Guido Belgiorno-Nettis, whose term expires next month. This would be Gonksi’s second term in the prestigious position, having previously held the presidency between 1997 and 2005.

We’re told Gonski coveted the job as chair of the Sydney Opera House Trust, but the position fell to Macquarie Bank CEO Nicholas Moore, a merchant banking friend of Premier Mike Baird. Throughout his legal and corporate career, Gonski has been a firm believer in correct corporate governance, and his talent would be much appreciated at the art gallery.

The gallery’s delayed annual report, published this week, shows that the number of curators and registrars fell from 52 to 43 from the 2012-13 financial year to 2014-15, while general staff numbers fell from 88 to 32.

However, the number of senior executive staff rose from two to eight, with director Michael Brand receiving $430,000 while his executive team got between $170,000 and $305,000.

South Africa-born Gonski, 62, is a former chancellor of the University of NSW and deputy chair of Frank Lowy’s Westfield Holdings. He became a household name after delivering a package of measures to accelerate school funding in 2011. Shortly after Tony Abbott’s election as prime minister, the Gonski report was removed from the government website.

Although there is a “back to the future” element to Gonski’s possible reappointment to a position he has previously held, we are told staff would welcome it, as they feel that the bureaucratisation of the gallery has removed a sense of imagination, excitement, vision and public participation.

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Peter Fray

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