NGA Director announces retirement

After three short years in the role, Gerard Vaughan announced today that he will be stepping down as Director in 2018.
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Gerard Vaughan, supplied courtesy NGA

Gerard Vaughan, Director of the National Gallery of Australia, has today announced his retirement. He will stay with the gallery for a final year, concluding his tenure in October next year.

Dr Vaughan was appointed to the role in October 2014; he was the fifth director to take the helm at the NGA following James Mollison, Betty Churcher, Brian Kennedy and Ron Radford.

Under his watch he has shepherded the gallery through highs and lows. Arriving at the Gallery, Vaughan had to come to grips with the contested provenance of key works within the Gallery’s South Asian collections, and was formative in establishing the independent Asian Art Provenance Project and negotiated the return of a number of sculptures, a move that was internationally celebrated.

Among the blockbuster exhibition under his tenure were those of James Turrell, Tom Roberts, Journey up the Sepik River, Mike Parr, Versailles: Treasures from the Palace – with record crowd of 190,128 visitors – and the 3rd national Indigenous Art Triennial.  The gallery also went through a major rehang of its Australian and International Collections.

But funding cuts have been challenging; the next stage expansion of the gallery has been stalled, there have been significant staff cuts, and the gallery’s satellite contemporary annex was closed.

Vaughan told ArtsHub not long after his appointment: ‘A friendly and open NGA is perhaps what is most needed at this time.’

Read: Making the National Gallery more accountable

In an earlier interview Vaughan said that walking around the gallery – being with the collection and the creative challenge that it presented – were what inspired him.‘I think provocation’s good,’ he added.


Prior to the NGA, Vaughan had been the director of the National Gallery of Victoria for 13-years, retiring in 2012 to take up a role at Melbourne University as the Gerry Higgins Professorial Fellowship in Art History. Scholarship has always been a key underlying foundation for Vaughan.

He was also formerly Director of the British Museum Development Trust, and his capacity for fundraising is well known.

An international search for a new Director is soon to commence, and will be managed by global executive search firm, Korn Ferry.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina