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Michael Brand appointed Director of Art Gallery of NSW

Friday 10 February 2012

Dr Michael Brand

Australian Dr Michael Brand, consulting director of the Aga Khan Museum currently under construction in Toronto and the former director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, has been appointed director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW).

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell welcomed the appointment.

“Michael will bring his formidable curatorial and management skills to bear on the Art Gallery of NSW’s already impressive reputation for artistic excellence and acquisition,” Mr O’Farrell said.

“The appointment will provide the Gallery with opportunities to build upon NSW’s strong artistic tradition, innovative approach to art and culture and my Government’s goal of making NSW Australia’s premier destination for art, culture and innovation.”

The President of the Board of Trustees of the AGNSW, Mr Steven Lowy AM, said he was delighted the Gallery had been able to recruit such an outstanding director whose scholarship and reputation was well recognised globally.

“Dr Brand has held important leadership roles at some of the world’s most respected cultural institutions,” he said.

“That the Art Gallery of NSW will now benefit from his extensive scholarly expertise, his international reputation and his global networks is cause for celebration.

“On behalf of the Gallery and its friends and supporters, we welcome Michael and his family to Sydney and look forward to working with him to take the Gallery into a new era.”

Dr Brand said he was very excited about his new role.

“The Board of Trustees presented me with a highly compelling vision of the Gallery’s future,” he said.

“While they are rightly focused on serving their primary audience and promoting Australian art, they are also resolutely international in their approach to art and culture.

“I have been highly impressed by the seriousness with which the Board of Trustees and the Government have been developing a strategy to guide the Gallery’s future and the Gallery is clearly about to enter an exciting phase of its history. Based in one of the world’s most dynamic cities, the Gallery has a great opportunity to further build on its international partnerships that will bring extraordinary works of art to Australia.”

Dr Brand will be the ninth director of the AGNSW in its 120-year history and will assume his new role mid-year after finalising his consultancy with the Aga Khan Museum, which is currently constructing a $150 million building designed by the Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki. Dr Brand has led the development of this new institution, which will work closely with other agencies of the Paris-based Aga Khan development network and will become the only museum in North America devoted to the arts of Islamic civilisations.

Dr Brand previously served as director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles from 2005 to 2010. During this time his priorities and achievements included resolving claims for the restitution of antiquities made by the governments of Italy and Greece, and bringing contemporary and non-Western art into the Museum’s programs.

He was the first director of the Getty Museum to lead the institution at both the Getty Center and the Getty Villa sites and in 2006 created the Museum’s new Center for Photographs. Under his leadership, major acquisitions were made in each of the Museum’s six collecting areas, including masterpieces by artists such as Claude Lorrain and Paul Gauguin. He also staged significant exhibitions such as Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai (2007); Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture (2008) and Drawings by Rembrandt and his Pupils (2009).

Dr Brand has a formidable international reputation and currently serves on the Visiting Committee of the Harvard Art Museum and the International Advisory Board of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. He is a past member of the Governing Board of the Courtauld Institute of Art in London.

Earlier appointments included serving as director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, where he was the driving force behind a $125 million capital campaign to fund the largest expansion in the Museum’s history.

From 1996 to 2000, Dr Brand was Assistant Director, Curatorial and Collection Development, at the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, where he led the development of the Gallery’s world-renowned collection of Asia-Pacific art.

From 1988 to 1996 he was curator of Asian art at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and was co-director of the Smithsonian Institution Mughal Garden Project in Lahore, Pakistan from 1988 to 1993.

Dr Brand was born in Australia and earned his BA (Honours) from the Australian National University and his MA and PhD in art history from Harvard University.

Mr Lowy said that immediately following the announcement of the retirement of the Gallery’s long-serving and distinguished director Edmund Capon in August last year, the Trustees had embarked on a thorough global search to recruit a successor.

“That search began with extensive consultation with a broad spectrum of gallery stakeholders which helped identify the qualities an ideal candidate should possess,” he said.

“I’m pleased to say that Michael exemplifies those qualities in every respect.”

Mr Lowy thanked the Board of Trustees for its dedication and diligence during the recruitment process.

He also acknowledged the generous support of the Director of the Tate in London, Sir Nicholas Serota, whose guidance and advice to Trustees was invaluable.

Further details of Dr Brand’s career are available on request.

Media contact

Claire Martin
Tel 02 9225 1734
Mob 0414 437 588

Susanne Briggs
Tel 02 9225 1791
Mob 0412 268 320

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