Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wish list

• The principle that the arts and culture occupy a ‘critic and conscience’ role in relation to society. To combine the ideology of the arts in with the motives of “entertainment” would seriously distort and limit the scope and freedom of voices that need to be heard in the arts.

• A clear demarcation between the expertise of commercial (RFA) and fine-arts (AAG) interests and responsibilities.

• Protection and separation from the event-centre imperatives that the gallery is currently being obliged to fulfill.

• Independence and freedom for the gallery director and staff to envision, curate and manage exhibitions to the best of their professional abilities. The director must have overall authority and responsibility for management of resources, cultural and financial. This equates with proven international best-practice for art museums.

• Confidence in the gallery directorate to develop strong visionary leadership that reflects local and international contemporary art-culture.

• The appointment of one or more experienced art advisors to the RFA whose expert knowledge and advise would support and assist the management goals of AAG and the governance requirements of Council.

• The Art Gallery to inform and inspire the community with regular programming of culturally adventurous and risk-taking exhibitions alongside the proven and sure. Such exhibitions enhance visitor experiences, contribute to growth in audience numbers, achieve cultural goals of excellence and build the professional status of the institution for the benefit of all.


As marketing and PR transform how art institutions are presenting and processing art, we are also witnessing a radical change in the way art is produced in New Zealand. This time the change agent is an acronym. PBRF (Performance-Based Research Fund).

This is the process by which the Government now allocates around 60% of the research funding tertiary education receives (another 25% goes into postgraduate degrees and that’s a story in itself). In the 2012 about $1.6 billion was up for grabs. And remember a billion seconds takes 31 years where as a million would only rack up 13 days. It’s a lot of dough. 

Behind all this is a whole army of bureaucrats producing a forest full of methodologies, Q&As, guidelines and tips&tricks all with a single goal: to increase the quality of research. If you are employed in the tertiary system, quality research has been the name of the game since 2003 (the year the PBRF was introduced). 

Now if you are a biologist or an historian, the ways quality is assessed are pretty straightforward: you need to present at quality conferences, have papers accepted for peer-reviewed quality journals, write books accepted by quality publishers . Everyone in the field pretty much agrees on what counts and what doesn’t. But transforming artists into academics from around the 1990s has radically changed the whole idea of quality in the visual arts. 

Since the wider tertiary sector is not interested in minor exceptions to its quality research framework, artist academics have to squeeze themselves and their work into the common framework, and it's not easy. And this is why we now hear so much talk about “research-based art”. This is not a big new artist type ism, it’s an institutionally driven piece of bureaucracy. 

At first it was kind of comical as artist academics scoured the planet for obscure phenomena (out of the way architecture, forgotten moments of modernism, the entire sub continent, fringe cultures etc.) to research. But there is serious money at stake and serious implications for art museums, artists outside the academic system and the market.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Organisational Review

Outcomes for Auckland Art Gallery

As you will be aware, over the past five weeks a consultation process has been underway with senior Gallery management regarding the proposed management restructure. After considering all the written and verbal feedback from the affected managers, the new management structure has now been finalised. As in any genuine consultative process, the proposed changes have gone through numerous iterations and I am confident that the final outcome positions the Gallery well going forward.
Key Changes
The key elements of the management restructure are outlined below:
•                  There will be minor changes to the responsibilities of the Director – Auckland Art Gallery, whose role will have a stronger focus on developing the artistic programme whilst retaining overall line management responsibility for the Gallery’s operations.
•                  A new position of Deputy Director will be established, with defined delegated responsibility for management of Gallery operations.
•                  A new title of Head of Collection Services will be the only change to the former Operations team. The Head of Collection Services will report to the Deputy Director.
•                  The new positions of Head of Visitor Services and Head of Learning and Gallery Services will be established, both reporting to the Deputy Director.
•                  The Visitor Services team will comprise the gallery guide and retail functions.  
•                  The Learning and Gallery Services team will comprise the learning programmes and security
and building management functions.
•                  The curatorial services team will be headed by the new position of Principal Curator, reporting to the Director. The Principal Curator position has been established by restructuring the vacant curatorial programmes manager role.
•                  A new position of Manager, Special Exhibitions will be established, reporting to the Director.
•                  Marketing and communications and administration staff will report to the Deputy Director.
•                  Due to the above changes, the positions of Head of Programmes, Head of Development, Head of 
Services, and Curatorial Programmes Manager will be disestablished.

Filling of New Positions
External advertising for the new positions of Deputy Director and Principal Curator will commence as soon as possible. The positions of Head of Visitor Services, Head of Learning and Gallery Services, and Manager, Special Exhibitions will be filled by redeployment of managers whose positions have been disestablished as a result of the restructure.

Organisational Charts
The new organisational charts will be made available for all Gallery staff by the end of this week.

Other Changes Resulting from the Organisational Review
As I have previously outlined, the following changes will also be implemented at the Gallery:
•                  Marketing resources will, on occasions as necessary, be centrally coordinated across the RFA group of business units to assist the Gallery to promote exhibitions, events, etc. A draft protocol has been developed to guide the coordination process.
•                  Functions and events will be managed by Auckland Conventions across the RFA group and will assist the Gallery to increase utilisation of functions space and commercial returns.
•                  The Centre for Performing Arts will extend its public performing arts programme to the Gallery to assist in increasing visitation and enhancing the customer experience.

Moving Forward
The Gallery will spend the upcoming period progressively transitioning to the new arrangements outlined above. During this stage of the transition, business will continue as usual. Staff will be advised of implementation timelines and dates as soon as practicable.
I am confident that the changes we will be making will place Auckland Art Gallery on a stronger artistic, managerial and financial footing, not only to best meet the challenges that lay ahead, but also to maximise the opportunities that arise.

Robert Domm Chief Executive Officer