Through its collection and programs, the National Gallery of Australia represents Australia’s people, its diverse ideas and aesthetic expressions, histories and relationships to the world. Its cultural mandate is reflected in the extraordinary national art collection and through education programs, exhibitions and cultural events that resonate with visitors to this iconic site on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country.
This report highlights the extensive activities and achievements of the National Gallery in 2018–19. This year marked a new chapter for the Gallery, with my appointment as Chair of Council in July 2018 coinciding with the commencement of Nick Mitzevich as Director. Since then, Nick has established himself as a dynamic leader with the capacity to harness the commitment and talent within the organisation and develop and implement bold new ideas for the institution.
A major focus for 2018–19 was the delivery of a five-year strategic vision embracing a dynamic transformative future for the Gallery. This strategy is based on the development of a new vision for the national collection, efficient and agile operational processes and a revitalised capital works program. Throughout the year, the Gallery enhanced its internal controls through renewed strategic risk management and strengthened engagement with the Australian National Audit Office. One of the major achievements for 2018–19 was the development and implementation of the Gallery’s Financial Sustainability Strategy designed to build capacity and growth for its operations, capital investment and balance-sheet management.
The Gallery’s extraordinary building in Parkes is approaching its fortieth year with supporting infrastructure housing over $6 billion in Commonwealth heritage and cultural assets. In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2018–19, the Government announced a one-off capital injection of $6.2 million to contribute to the capital maintenance of this building and an additional $14.4 million per year ongoing to maintain an active acquisition program. This funding built on the 2018–19 Budget measure that provided $16.55 million over a three-year period. Along with this allocation, $4.95 million was provided through the Department of Communications and the Arts and $4 million from the Gallery to undertake the first thirty-one of fifty-four critical infrastructure and building remediation projects.
The Gallery’s exhibitions, public and education programs were delivered with a mission to inspire creativity, inclusivity, engagement and learning through artists and art. We were particularly proud to present Indigenous Australia: Masterworks from the National Gallery of Australia at the National Gallery of Modern Art in India.
The Gallery also acquired significant works of art for the national collection. These achievements were, in large measure, due to the support of our many donors, benefactors, sponsors and volunteers. On behalf of the Gallery and its Council, I thank all our supporters for their outstanding contributions. I also acknowledge the work of the Gallery’s Foundation under the leadership of John Hindmarsh AM as they continued to strategically strengthen the collection and provide specific support to programming and publishing.
These programs support Commonwealth Government objectives by providing national and international touring exhibitions and loans and by leading a forward-thinking national cultural agenda championing art and its value in Australian society. An important aspect of this commitment is establishing meaningful core initiatives to support Indigenous engagement across the organisation and through all programs and activities.
The National Gallery Council appreciates the ongoing support of the Australian Government through the former Minister for Communications and the Arts, the Hon Mitch Fifield, and the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, and our colleagues at the Department of Communications and the Arts.
I would like to acknowledge my colleagues on Council, with the Hon Richard Alston AO and Stephen Brady AO, CVO, joining the Council and Tim Fairfax AC, Jane Hylton and John Hindmarsh AM attending their final Council meeting after many years of distinguished service. While it is highly rewarding to serve on the Council, it is a demanding role that requires passion, advocacy and commitment.
Finally, I would like to recognise the continued efforts of the Gallery’s dedicated staff, driven by commitment and a passion for our important role in the cultural landscape of Australia.
This report records a year of consolidation and progress for the Gallery. The year presented a range of transitional challenges along with the promise of future opportunities and we look forward to building on the foundation set in 2018–19 to realise the new five-year strategic vision. I look forward to working closely with the Director and my colleagues on Council as we work towards this vision and a new and ambitious program.
Chair of Council