18 June 2023

Nick Mitzevich appointed for second five-year term at National Gallery of Australia

| Genevieve Jacobs
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NGA director Dr Nick Mitzevich (L) with NGA chair Ryan Stokes, Arts Minister Tony Burke and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Photo: NGA.

After five years of significant change and challenge at the National Gallery of Australia, director Nick Mitzevich has been appointed for a second term at the institution’s helm.

“Nick has been a great advocate for the National Gallery, and I look forward to working with him to ensure that it remains a source of pride and inspiration for all of us,” Arts Minister Tony Burke said in a statement.

Dr Mitzevich has been at the gallery since 2018, spearheading significant change in how the NGA tells the story of Australian art and in particular Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art.

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During his tenure, the NGA also shone a spotlight on the often neglected story of Australia’s women artists. Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now showcased 400 works by 170 women artists in an immense, two-part undertaking running across a year.

Under Dr Mitzevich’s leadership, the NGA’s focus shifted somewhat from international blockbusters to a closer examination of great Australian art. Jeffrey Smart and Cressida Campbell were the subjects of successful summer exhibitions in recent years that mined the gallery’s own collections and networks rather than mounting costly international shows.

It’s been a challenging five years, however, as the NGA faced down the pandemic and sustained budget cuts under the previous government.

Along with Canberra’s other cultural institutions, the gallery received a significant funding boost this year after a sustained campaign pointing out that a significant number of staff roles were unsustainable and long-delayed repairs were at risk of damaging the collection.

The NGA received $119.1 million in the 2023 budget, pulling it back from plans to limit opening hours and charge entry fees.

“The National Gallery of Australia is a gift to all Australians,” Mr Burke said in a statement on the appointment. “It’s critical we safeguard it for generations to come, allowing it to showcase and tell important Australian stories.”

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A survey of Anmatyerre artist Emily Kam Kngwarray’s works will open at the NGA in December. Image: Emily Kam Kngwarray / Copyright Agency, 2022.

Dr Mitzevich noted the director’s role came with great responsibility, adding that he was proud of the work that had been accomplished in the First Nations and gender equity spaces.

“I look forward to working with the Minister for the Arts to bring Revive to life through the sharing of the national collection initiative, which will allow us to share more of the national collection with more Australians and local communities,” he said.

This summer the NGA’s major exhibition will be a survey of Emily Kam Kngwarray, the senior Anmatyerre woman from the Utopia community in the Northern Territory whose later period work gained international critical acclaim.

The show will bring together works from across her career, including early batik and later monumental paintings on canvas. An audio-visual project created in collaboration with the artist’s community will feature as part of the exhibition, weaving through the songs of the awelye, or women’s business, designs and knowledge that informed Kngwarray’s work.

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