The head of the Association of Western Australian Art Galleries has labelled the Art Gallery of Western Australia an embarrassment and is hopeful that an incoming director will be able to attract more government funding to help turn the gallery into a wor
The head of the Association of Western Australian Art Galleries has labelled the Art Gallery of Western Australia an embarrassment and is hopeful that an incoming director will be able to attract more government funding to help turn the gallery into a world class institution.
AWAAG chairman David Forrest said outgoing Art Gallery director Alan Dodge had been a visionary when he started in the role more than a decade ago but many of his ideas failed to materialise, largely due to a lack of financial support from the state government.
Mr Dodge announced his retirement as director in July and will stand down in December.
The state government has embarked on a national and international recruitment drive to secure the services of a new director.
Mr Forrest, who owns Fremantle’s Gallery East, has been chairman of AWAAG for 14 years, an association which comprises more than 20 of the state’s leading galleries including the Art Gallery of WA.
He said the arts community wanted a state gallery director that would be able to develop the gallery into a leading and credible gallery.
“What we are looking for is a new director who will be bold and visionary, but also someone who will be able to be persuasive enough to get the funds to invest in the gallery’s regeneration rather than have it limp along,” he said.
Mr Forrest said the Art Gallery was currently “embarrassing”. “It should be a dynamic centre for visual arts and it isn’t,” he said.
“Alan Dodge was thwarted in his ambition by a lack of funding to support his vision.”
Other gallery owners spoken to by WA Business News echoed Mr Forrest’s view and said the gallery should be a leader in the arts sector, which would generate greater interests and investment for the entire sector.
In its most recent annual report, the Art Gallery of WA revealed the state government pumped in $14.8 million in 2005-06 plus an additional $3.5 million for services.
That is dwarfed by the $38.8 million invested by the Victorian state government in its gallery during the same period, while the Queensland Art Gallery received $22.5 million from its state government in 2005-06.
Tuner Galleries director Helen Morgan said she wanted the new director to develop more non-government financing, which could include increasing investment from the business community and possibly establishing a fund that could generate income for the future.
“The economy is booming and if you can’t get sponsorship from business now then you never will,” Ms Morgan said.
She is pushing for a new director to launch a new contemporary art gallery similar to one established in Queensland, which showcases modern artworks.
Ms Morgan said Mr Dodge would be a hard director to replace because he had very good international connections that he used to attract exhibitions to the gallery.
But she said more work could be done to expand WA’s connections with the Asian art world given the state’s close proximity to the region.
Mr Forrest said Mr Dodge had generated good publicity for the gallery.
At the time of Mr Dodge’s retirement, Minister for Culture and the Arts, Sheila McHale, commended Mr Dodge’s 11 years at the helm of the gallery, saying he had raised the profile of the gallery’s standing locally, nationally and internationally.