2 top Australian art professionals return home to head leading Oceanic institutions


Michael Brand, former Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum, and Roger McIlroy, former Chairperson of Christie’s Australia, are heading back to their homeland of Australia after many years abroad to take up leading positions in the Oceanic art world.

Michael Brand, newly appointed director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Michael Brand’s plan

After a six-month-long search, Michael Brand was named the next Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Coming off his most recent job as a consulting director for Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, set to open in 2013, Brand will be the Gallery’s ninth director. Steven Lowy, chair of the Gallery’s board of trustees remarked on Brand’s unique suitability as a directorial candidate, and expressed hope that Brand will raise the institution to a “best-in-class” level”, “not just in Australia, but also regionally and on the international stage.”

Brand already has a plan to advance this goal. As he told ARTINFO in a recent interview,

In general, you would obviously like to see an international demand for Australian art rather than what might be described as one-sided export promotions. Many have tried to achieve this over the years, but not always with great success. How might the Art Gallery of NSW help? I believe the best place to start is by building partnerships on both the museum-to-museum and curator-to-curator levels. Another important contribution is the publication of serious scholarship on Australian artists that places their work in an international as well as national context.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

For Brand, the move to Australia is a long-anticipated return home. Brand told The World Today,

I grew up in Australia, worked in Australia, then went overseas. … [I] was fortunate to have some really wonderful opportunities in North America, but it has always been my ambition, my hope, to have a chance to come back to Australia and do something significant within the visual arts.

Not an international market?

Roger McIlroy will also take up the position as head auctioneer at Australian auction house Deutscher and Hackett. He replaces Anita Archer, who held the position for fourteen years. McIlroy, who most recently was running the art consultancy and dealership company Roger McIlroy Pty Ltd, is expected to help Deutscher and Hackett compete in the top end of the auction market. Co-director Chris Deutscher said of the hire, ”He’s top of the tree with a network of knowledge about art, collectors and dealers at the top end of the market. That can’t do us any harm.” McIlroy has commented that he will only run five to six auctions a year and will not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the auction house.

Roger McIlroy will become head auctioneer of Deutscher and Hackett in addition to running his art consultancy firm.

When asked about future prospects for Australia’s art market, McIlroy commented,

The art market for Australian art is and always has been a national market. Very little participation comes from abroad unless there is a link to an expat in London, New York or wherever…. I can’t see the Australian art market changing significantly over the next twelve months.

Can Australia’s native talent bring in a new, internationally-oriented movement in Australian art? Leave us a comment with your thoughts below.


Related Topics: auction staff, directors, art in Australia

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