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Ms Karen Quinlan appointed to lead the NPGA

25 September 2018

Helen Nugent, Karen Quinlan and Angus Trumble
Helen Nugent, Karen Quinlan and Angus Trumble

The Board of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia is delighted to announce the appointment of Ms Karen Quinlan as its incoming Director.

Ms Quinlan has a long and distinguished history of leadership in the visual arts: as an art gallery Director, as a curator and arts manager, as an educator, and as a significant contributor to the community in which she lives. She also has long evidenced her commitment to portraiture.

For the past eighteen years, Ms Quinlan has been Director of the Bendigo Art Gallery, serving as its Curator for three years prior to that. Under her leadership, the Bendigo Art Gallery has come to be recognised internationally for the quality of its exhibitions, many undertaken with overseas partners, such as the National Portrait Gallery in London. Many of those exhibitions have focused on portraiture, such as the iconic Grace Kelly exhibition and the recently announced staging of the Tudors to Windsors exhibition.

Ms Quinlan is also currently Professor of Practice at the La Trobe Art Institute, within La Trobe University. This builds on her long-standing commitment to visual arts education, which started with her obtaining a Bachelor of Education in Visual Arts from the University of Melbourne, and led to her initially becoming a Visual Arts Teacher and Arts Co-ordinator.

Dr Helen Nugent AO, the Chairman of the NPGA, said: “We are thrilled by Karen’s appointment. She will build on and deepen the NPGA’s commitment to reflecting what it means to be an Australian”.

Ms Quinlan said: “I am looking at the future of the NPGA with confidence and ambition. I am drawn to its uniqueness, its narrative and its collection, both visually and philosophically. The extraordinary legacy of Gordon and Marilyn Darling, along with its Foundation, its architecture, and its warm and accessible approach provide a strong platform for future collecting and ambitious programming.

“It is one of a kind! It celebrates our success, our inventiveness, our artistry, our cleverness as a nation and our identity. It must continue to collect works that symbolise the breadth and depth of Australian life”.

Ms Quinlan has also played a critical leadership role within the Bendigo community, as well as in Victoria more broadly. This includes her currently being on the Board of the Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists at the National Gallery of Victoria, as well as being a member of the Library Board of Victoria. She has also been the Chairman and a board member of the Public Galleries Association of Victoria and a board member of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Dr Nugent said: “The NPGA is known for its education programs and its commitment to accessibility and the community. Ms Quinlan’s appointment will reinforce and amplify our strong commitment in those areas.”

Dr Nugent also recognised and paid tribute to the contribution to the Gallery of the outgoing Director, Mr Angus Trumble, who announced in April this year that he would not seek to renew his appointment. Dr Nugent said: “Mr Trumble has significantly enhanced the reputation of the Gallery through his ability to engage with audiences and his characteristic flair. We are in his debt”.

By mutual agreement, Ms Quinlan will take up her appointment on 10th December, allowing Mr Trumble to focus his efforts on the history of Helena Rubinstein, thereby enhancing the Australian people’s understanding of a towering Australian who was a truly international figure. Her 1957 portrait by Graham Sutherland was acquired by the Gallery during Mr Trumble’s five year tenure. “This will be part of Mr Trumble’s legacy to our Australian narrative”, Dr Nugent said.