9 August 2022

National Portrait Gallery director heading to Melbourne

| Ian Bushnell
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Karen Quinlan

Departing National Portrait Gallery director Karen Quinlan: big-picture vision. Photo: NPG.

The National Portrait Gallery will soon be in the hunt for a new director after it was announced that Karen Quinlan would leave the gallery in September to take up a new position as chief executive officer of Arts Centre Melbourne.

NPG chair Penny Fowler said Ms Quinlan’s legacy at the NPG would be felt for a long time to come and she was leaving it in great shape.

“The recent international exhibition Shakespeare to Winehouse from the National Portrait Gallery in London is the most successful ticketed exhibition ever staged at the gallery,” Ms Fowler said.

“In addition, new online and exhibition programs developed during the pandemic mean more people than ever can access the NPG programs and collections.

“Recently launched exhibitions, including the Darling Portrait Prize for Painting and the popular, long-running National Photographic Portrait Prize, will be followed in October by Who Are You: Australian Portraiture, a collaboration between the NPG and the National Gallery of Victoria, one of the most comprehensive explorations of Australian identity and the portraiture genre.”

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Ms Fowler said Ms Quinlan had steered the gallery through a period of change and renewed ambition since she took on the role of director four years ago.

“Her big-picture vision has had a marked impact on the gallery’s national profile, access and visitation,” she said.

Ms Quinlan said the NPG was a unique institution in Australia.

“With a remarkable collection of artworks that capture the essence and spirit of Australia and all Australians, and the increased popularity of its exhibition, education and public programs, the NPG’s future looks bright,” she said.

“I thank the NPG board, foundation, the gallery’s donors and my incredible colleagues who have wholeheartedly supported my vision.”

READ ALSO Aboriginal Memorial moves to the heart of the National Gallery

Minister for the Arts, Tony Burke MP said Canberra’s loss was Melbourne’s gain.

“Karen Quinlan has been a fantastic director of the National Portrait Gallery and I know she’ll be just as effective at Arts Centre Melbourne,” he said.

“I look forward to working with her in her new role, particularly as we develop the Albanese Labor Government’s landmark National Cultural Policy. I was pleased that Karen recently agreed to join one of the review panels we announced to help shape our National Cultural Policy, with a focus on strong institutions.”

Interim arrangements, and the commencement of the recruitment process to fill the role of director will be announced shortly.

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