The National Gallery of Australia today announced the terms of reference for an Independent Review of works included in its planned exhibition Ngura Pulka – Epic Country.
The Independent Review will consider the scope and extent of contributions (if any) that third parties – and, in particular, studio assistants and managers at the APY Art Centre Collective – made to the creation of the 28 paintings that form the Ngura Pulka exhibition, with the ultimate view of assessing whether those works were made under the creative control of the artists to whom they are attributed.
The National Gallery has appointed an Independent Panel to undertake the Independent Review. The Panel includes:
- Two Reviewers
- Colin Golvan AM KC, one of the most senior members of the Intellectual Property Bar in Melbourne, with extensive experience in copyright protection for Indigenous arts; and
- Shane Simpson AM, founder of Simpsons Solicitors and recognised expert in arts, entertainment, cultural property and copyright laws.
- Two First Nations experts who will advise the Reviewers
- Yhonnie Scarce, a Kokatha and Nukunu artist; and
- Professor Maree Meredith, a Bidjara woman and University of Canberra’s Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous Leadership.
The Panel will determine whether the paintings can properly be described as having been made under the creative control of the persons named as the artists and make recommendations to the National Gallery’s Director based on the findings.
The National Gallery expects to receive the findings of the Independent Review by 31 May 2023. The full terms of reference and a list of the 28 artworks are appended to this release.
The Director of the National Gallery, Dr Nick Mitzevich, said: “The aim of the Independent Review is to clarify whether the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) artists attributed as the creators of the paintings to be included in the Gallery’s upcoming Ngura Pulka exhibition exercised effective creative control over the creation of the paintings, and so can properly be described as the artists responsible for those works consistent with the National Gallery’s provenance policy.
“We understand and appreciate that many issues surrounding the broader ethics and workings of the First Nations art market have been raised by The Australian newspaper’s recent investigation. Like other stakeholders of the First Nations art market, we are supportive of building an improved understanding of the ethical and cultural issues at play. These are big cultural, artistic, and economic issues, and we are happy to be part of the conversation, but the National Gallery is not an arbitral body. At this point, our focus is ensuring the welfare and safety of artists and seeking independent and expert assistance to assess the provenance of the 28 works on loan to the National Gallery for Ngura Pulka.”
The National Gallery will cease further exhibition promotion while the review takes place.
The National Gallery’s Due Diligence and Provenance Policy and its Inward Loans Policy set out the principles by which the National Gallery conducts due diligence and reviews provenance on works in its collection and that it borrows, including for exhibitions.
The Independent Review has been sponsored by the Director of the National Gallery of Australia. The Reviewers will provide a written report of their findings to the Director of the National Gallery and to the Chair of the Council of the National Gallery. The final report will also be released in full to the public.
The recommendations in the final report will be considered by the Council of the National Gallery of Australia. Council members are appointed by the Governor General. Ms Sally Scales has declared a conflict of interest both as a Director of APY Gallery and as an artist represented in the exhibition, and will recuse herself from any Council deliberations regarding the planned Ngura Pulka exhibition. The National Gallery Foundation Board has no governance role overseeing exhibitions at the National Gallery and will not have a role in considering the final report.
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Terms of reference and Ngura Pulka Works of Art
NOTES FOR THE EDITOR
Colin Golvan AM KC
Colin Golvan AM KC practises as a Kings Counsel at the Victorian Bar, predominantly in intellectual property law and trade practices. He has over 30 years’ experience in copyright, trademarks, designs, patents, and misleading conduct cases in the Federal and High Court of Australia. He was recently recognised as this year's Lawyer of the Year in Intellectual Property in Melbourne by the Best Lawyers Guide for Australia. He has represented many Indigenous artists in cases protecting their copyright - and most recently represented the Namatjira family in the recovery of the copyright of Albert Namatjira, and Harold Thomas in the assignment of copyright in the Aboriginal Flag to the Commonwealth. In addition to serving as chairperson of the board of trustees of the Victorian Bar Indigenous Barristers’ Fund and the Indigenous Lawyers Committee of the Victorian Bar, he has also been a Chair and member of many arts boards, including membership of the Board of Museums Victoria and the Foundation of Arts Centre Melbourne. In 2018, he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
Shane Simpson AM
Shane Simpson has over 30 years’ experience in the arts and law, specialising in intellectual and cultural property. He is Special Counsel at Simpsons Solicitors, a firm specialising in the arts, entertainment, cultural property, and copyright. He is the founder of the Arts Law Centre of Australia. He is on the Council of the National Library of Australia and is Chair of the NAISDA Foundation. Shane has been on the Council of the Australian National Maritime Museum and Chair of the Bundanon Trust, the Aboriginal Benefits Foundation, and Museums and Galleries NSW. He has also been a non-executive director on numerous other boards in the cultural sector. In 2015 he conducted the government Review of the Protection of Movable Cultural Property Act (“Borders of Culture). In 2011, Shane was appointed Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
Yhonnie Scarce is an Australian artist descendant of the Kokatha and Nukunu people of South Australia. Primarily working with glass and photography, Scarce explores the lingering effects of colonisation on First Nations people. She is represented in various galleries across Australia and has been curated into numerous biennale’s worldwide. Scarce lives and works in Naarm/Melbourne.
Professor Maree Meredith
Professor Maree Meredith is a descendent of the Bidjara People of Queensland. Professor Meredith is the Pro Vice-Chancellor of Indigenous Leadership at the University of Canberra. She has extensive experience in Aboriginal and Indigenous affairs with an academic focus in health, the arts, policy, and program development. Professor Meredith lives and works in Kamberri/Canberra.