Top art gallery director leaves Sydney adrift, for greener pastures in Asia’s world city

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Deputy Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Suhanya Raffel exits her post for an appointment at the M+ gallery in Hong Kong, amidst concerns of competence on the Australian senior gallery management. (Image: WKCDA)

With the abrupt and surprising departure of M+ executive director Lars Nittve in January amid construction delays comes his much anticipated replacement: Suhanya Raffel, currently Deputy Director of the AGNSW armed with an impressive résumé in international gallery management, has been tapped to lead the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA) art gallery with effect from 1 November 2016.

In a WKCDA press release, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor (林鄭月娥), Chief Secretary of the HKSAR and chairperson of the authority’s board, praised Raffel as “an expert of contemporary Asian art with over 30 years of professional experience in museum management.” This, coupled with ample praise of Raffel’s leadership qualities and world renowned status as an artistic visionary from the local Hong Kong art community, have reassured the incoming director of an eager local reception.

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However, such sentiments in Hong Kong are not being echoed in the land down under. Many in Australia’s art community have raised concerns on the competence of the AGNSW’s senior management, particularly in light of the ambitious Sydney Modern project. Launched in 2013, the AUD450 million (USD343 million) project has seen little progress despite an initial government injection of AUD14.8 million (USD11.3 million). This has lead critics to dub Raffel’s departure as an act of bad timing which could further delay the already stranded project set for completion in 2021.

With logistical and funding woes on both sides of the pond, the positive benefits and negative ramifications of this changing of the creative guard remains to be seen.

[starbox desc=”Lincoln Cheng

Lincoln Cheng is an intern at Harbour Times. He is a final year student at the Kellett School.