Art Gallery of Ballarat to search for new director

ON THE HUNT: Art Gallery of Ballarat board chairman Mark Harris is leading the search for a new director after Gordon Morrison's resigned. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric
ON THE HUNT: Art Gallery of Ballarat board chairman Mark Harris is leading the search for a new director after Gordon Morrison's resigned. Picture: Luka Kauzlaric

An independent recruiting specialist has been hired to find the next Art Gallery of Ballarat director.

Long-serving director Gordon Morrison will step down from his role at the gallery early next year.

His replacement will be appointed following an exhaustive search of candidates from across Australia.

Gallery board chairman Mark Harris said the Ballarat institution had to retain its wide appeal to the community during the leadership change.

“You could certainly go for a model where you have a small collection that you don’t do much with,” he said.

“You don’t improve it, and you have the giant space for the blockbuster artwork that might fall into your lap.

“We get some criticism because we are not the static box, where we are curating our own stuff.

“But we have got visitation three or four times what a metro gallery, per capita gets, and it is because normal folk are coming in and out all the time.

“What the gallery has achieved is a place where kids at schools, VCE students, mums with babies, are all here – there is a sense of genuine ownership from people in the city.”

Mr Harris said the gallery could not afford to become a slave to elite patronage and donations.

Art galleries in Australia have changed in the past decade to become more commercially viable and reach higher visitation numbers.

This includes adding cafes, big art shows with greater space and diversity.

The Ballarat gallery has also had to contend with the challenges created through rate capping on local government.

Mr Harris said the next director would have to address the funding issue at some stage .

“Funds in local government are frozen, so it is going to be increasingly difficult to advocate for what the gallery may need,” he said. “We have got to look to that in terms of what the gallery is getting, but we have had fabulous support from the city council over a long period.

“The next director has to be able top speak to that profile, to understand it is a living gallery, it is owned by its citizens.

“It is not about elites, it has a constant change of shows people want to see.”

Mr Harris heads a board made up of 11 members.

A further 10 people are employed there, including the director.