The former Heide Museum of Modern Art director and QAGOMA curator will take over Geelong’s Art Gallery in February.
Jason Smith is one of the elder statesmen of the Australian art world. He spent more than a decade as the curator of the contemporary art collection at the National Gallery of Victoria, ran the Heide Museum of Modern Art for more than six years, and has just finished a 15-moth stint as curator of Australian Art at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Now the celebrated curator is heading to rural Victoria to take up the role of director at Geelong’s 120-year-old Art Gallery.
“Geelong is something I have had my eye on for a while, even while I was at Heide,” Smith said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. During his time as a curator in Brisbane, Smith was involved with the 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT), which has attracted more than 90,000 visitors since its opening in November. “I’ve had an incredibly wonderful year here with APT production, it’s been incredible to be part of a dynamic team. But having led an institution for the better part of a decade, I want to lead again.”
The Geelong Art Gallery
The current director of Geelong’s Art Gallery, Geoffrey Edwards, has held the post for more than 15 years. When Edwards announced his retirement late last year, Smith was among 25 highly qualified applicants for the job. “Geelong is a treasure, it’s a jewel in Victoria’s public galleries,” he said. He’ll leave his current position in Queensland on February 11 to move back to Victoria, where his long-term partner is already based.
The Geelong Art Gallery’s collection spans the 19th-21st centuries, with major works by Eugene Von Guerard featured alongside more recent acquisitions from present Australian artists. Smith will take over as the director at a time of artistic redevelopment, with the gallery currently planning an expansion of its premises to adjoin the Town Hall. The Geelong Performing Arts Centre across the road is also mid-way through a $140 million revamp. Smith is excited about the city’s artistic future, believing Geelong is ready to enter a new dynamic phase of cultural vibrancy that will hopefully enliven the city after the economic downfall caused by major employers Ford and Alcoa winding down. “It’s easy for people to forget that it’s the second-biggest city in Victoria,” he says. “Given the negative news we’ve had in recent years, the counterpoint is that there is growth and there is change. If ever there was a statement about the role of the arts in revitalising and affirming communities, and being an agent that can galvanise people, it is remarkable that Geelong is an example of how the arts can lift people out of difficult times.”
For more information on the Geelong Art Gallery, visit their website here.