Announcement by Dr Brian Kennedy
director of the National Gallery of Australia

9 February 2004

Dr Brian Kennedy announced today that he would not seek to renew his contract as Director of the National Gallery of Australia when it expires in August 2004. Dr Kennedy said he had formally advised his intentions to the Gallery Chairman, Mr Harold Mitchell, and the Minister for Arts and Sport, Senator the Hon Rod Kemp.

'Since opening to the public in 1982, the National Gallery has had three Directors, each of whom served for seven years. It is time to make the post available for the next phase in the story of this vital institution which although young, is an extraordinary achievement already,' Dr Kennedy said.

Dr Kennedy, who was appointed in 1997, said he was honoured to have served as Director of a Gallery that is truly a national institution in every sense of the word. 'The National Gallery is more than just a building with major displays and exhibitions in Canberra. Through its programs of travelling exhibitions, loans to and partnerships with regional and metropolitan galleries, it has deliberately and successfully reached out to hundreds of thousands of Australians across the country,' he said, 'the success of the Out and About exhibition in 2003, which saw iconic works of art exhibited across the country, along with our many outreach programs, has convinced me of Australia’s enthusiasm for great works of art.'

'The introduction of free admission to the permanent collection in 1998 encouraged donors to assist acquisitions to the Gallery, knowing that works they supported would be available to all Australians. There have been acquisitions across all the collection areas, many funded with the support of a rejuvenated Gallery Foundation,' Dr Kennedy said, 'I have been delighted to be associated with so many significant acquisitions proposed by our curators. In particular, the Gallery has acquired key works by Australian masters such as Rover Thomas, John Brack, Arthur Boyd, John Olsen, Fiona Hall and Bill Robinson, along with many other works of contemporary Australian art. 'Key collections have been acquired — the Fannin collection of early Papunya paintings, the Australian Print Workshop Archive, the Holmgren Spertus collection of Asian Textiles and the Tyler Archive of international prints. While much attention has been paid to major acquisitions by among others David Hockney, Lucian Freud and Ron Mueck (acquired with $5.5 million in donor contributions), building on our existing collections has brought me great satisfaction and pleasure.'

Dr Kennedy said that he had been mandated to make the Gallery more national and international. The Gallery staff had worked brilliantly to achieve this aim through increased access to loans from the national collection — these have risen every year since 1997 — and a succession of international exhibitions in the USA [1998/99], England [2000], Switzerland [1999], Germany [1999], Russia [2000], Papua New Guinea [2002], New Zealand [2002, 2003], Noumea [2003] and Singapore [2004].

In Canberra, the Gallery building has been receiving a long-needed refurbishment, and funding has been allocated from Government for visitor facilities and galleries in a new entrance area.

'The National Gallery Directorship', said Dr Kennedy, 'is a challenging position, often controversial but always engaging. I have been very appreciative of the support offered to me by staff, the Chairs and Members of the Gallery Council and Foundation, donors, the Gallery membership and our many visitors. Long may the Australian Government, benefactors and the visiting public continue to sustain the National Gallery,’ he said.

For further information, please contact the NGA’s media consultant, Ken Begg: +61 (0)412 174319; +61 2 6275 2222;

Other comments
Statement from Harold Mitchell, Chairman, National Gallery of Australia