Second departure signals a new chapter for Art Gallery leadership

The Art Gallery of South Australia is set to lose a second key member of its leadership team with the announcement that Lisa Slade has been appointed to the role of the Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History at the University of Melbourne.

Jun 14, 2024, updated Jun 14, 2024
Lisa Slade has been appointed Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History at the University of Melbourne. Photo: Sia Duff / supplied

Lisa Slade has been appointed Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History at the University of Melbourne. Photo: Sia Duff / supplied

Slade has been AGSA’s assistant director, artistic programs, since 2015, after joining the gallery four years earlier as project curator.

The news of her new appointment comes less than three months after it was revealed that gallery director Rhana Devenport would be departing when her contract comes to an end next month. Devenport, who has been in charge of the institution for six years, will finish up on July 7 and plans to move to Sydney.

Slade’s last official day will be July 3.

In a statement released today, AGSA said Slade’s new role as the Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History was “one of the most prestigious appointments of its kind in Australia” and would see her play an important leadership role in linking the university’s academic program to the wider arts community and fostering public engagement.

“It is my vocation to make art meaningful and purposeful for broad audiences and to position Australian art as a critical cipher in the way we see ourselves,” said Slade, who was awarded a PhD in Art History from Monash University in 2017 while in her current role.

“I wish to create a bridge from galleries and museums to universities and the public.”

Slade began her tenure at AGSA under former director Nick Mitzevich. She has curated a number of exhibitions, including the successful 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Magic Object, Sappers & Shrapnel: contemporary art and the art of the trenches, and the touring exhibitions Living Rocks and Kuḻaṯa Tjuṯa.

In addition, Slade played a pivotal role (alongside Mitzevich and Nici Cumpston) in the development of the Tarnanthi Festival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, and helped lead the case for the $100,000 Ramsay Art Prize, which has been presented biennially since 2017.

Slade says she is proud to have championed public engagement and to have inspired the gallery team to “make new audiences for art and new art for audiences”.

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“This has been achieved through all parts of my role including exhibition making, collection development and, critically, through my curating of education and public programs. Through this work I hope that new Australian art histories have been made.”

Art Gallery board chair Sandy Verschoor acknowledged Slade’s “extensive contribution” to AGSA and said her new role “demonstrates the strength of the gallery’s artistic leadership”.

“We wish her every success in her new role and are excited for a new artistic leadership team that will bring fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a renewed energy for the gallery to continue their role as a global leader,” Vershoor said.

The search is already underway for a new director, with Emma Fey, assistant director operations, appointed as acting director.

For more insights into who’s on the move in South Australia, sign up for Corporate Ladder in Business Insight each Monday morning. It’s free and informative.

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