Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Succession planning

Today Over the net notes that Paula Savage has been the director of City Gallery Wellington for the past sixteen and a half years.

The post dovetails nicely with two articles I've read this week, which have got me thinking about the way we approach succession planning in New Zealand's art galleries.

In the New York Times this week, Charles McGrath looks at Philippe de Montebello's 30-year tenure as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and at possible successors to the 71 year old. McGrath quotes de Montebello:

“The job doesn’t even resemble what is once was,” he said, listing all his increased bureaucratic responsibilities: dealing with the legal and human resource departments, overseeing publications and, more recently, negotiating with foreign governments that demand the return of artworks they argue were acquired illegally. ...

“If we were to project forward the person I was 30 years ago, that person wouldn’t remotely be qualified for this job,” he said. “I wouldn’t want the job either, because frankly I wouldn’t want to spend so much of my time on nonartistic matters.”

Meanwhile, on the Guardian art blog, Charlotte Higgins speculates on who will replace Charles Saumarez Smith, who resigned as director of the National Gallery after 'only' five years.

In her post, Higgins notes how nice it would be if the people looking to appoint Saumarez Smith's sucessor looked beyond "the legions of more-or-less interchangeable white Caucasian men in nice suits in their 40s" and took a risk - as with the appointment of Neil McGregor (a magazine editor) to the role in 1987.

Higgins also observes that the "vast amount of money" invested in leadership development schemes for arts professionals in England (such as the Clore Leadership Programme) does not seem to have resulted in a phalanx of new contenders for leadership roles.

So - bringing this all back to New Zealand. How do we talk about Paula Savage's successor? Over one-too-many drinks after an opening? Or publicly, through an engaged media, who understands that the people who run our arts institutions imbue them with their own personalities?

And just as importantly - who's out there to replace Priscilla Pitts in Dunedin, or Savage, or Chris Saines, who would be likely to leave Auckland when (if?) the gallery's redevelopment is completed. How are we preparing for the future? And who are we preparing for it?

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