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Bendigo Art Gallery Director to depart City for exciting new opportunity

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Bendigo Art Gallery Director Karen Quinlan has accepted the role of Director of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia and will be based in Canberra.

She first joined the City of Greater Bendigo in 1996 and was appointed Director in 2000.

Ms Quinlan said her time as Gallery Director had been a rewarding and enriching experience.

“I am indebted to City of Greater Bendigo staff and Councillors for their great support to me as Director over the past 18 years. I have been encouraged to be ambitious and push the boundaries, and this has seen Bendigo Art Gallery redefine what it means to be a regional gallery,” she said.

“I was able to learn on the job, develop an incredible set of skills and foster important relationships with leading art institutions around the world.

“As a result, the Gallery helped position Bendigo as a regional capital for arts and culture in Australia and engendered great community ownership and civic pride in our exhibitions and achievements.

“Working with the wonderful Gallery team, I have been able to experiment with the diverse nature of exhibitions that we have staged, ranging from historical to contemporary, which has allowed us to grow and maintain a diverse following.”

Under Ms Quinlan’s leadership the Gallery has delivered a range of blockbuster exhibitions, including The Golden Age of Couture; White Wedding Dress; Grace Kelly: Style Icon; The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece; Genius and Ambition: The Royal Academy of Arts, London 1768-1918; and Bendigo Art Gallery and Twentieth Century Fox present Marilyn Monroe, drawing crowds from across the country and beyond and delivering significant economic impacts for the region.  

The Gallery building was also twice extended during Ms Quinlan’s tenure, in 2001 and 2014, the latest being an $8.5M contemporary wing offering twice the exhibition space and more scope for large-scale exhibitions.  

In recent years the Gallery has also established two national biennial prizes, the Paul Guest Prize to celebrate contemporary drawing practice and the Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize to recognise contemporary art, and introduced the annual Going Solo exhibition to showcase a contemporary artist living and working in central Victoria.

Ms Quinlan thanked the Gallery Board, her dedicated staff and wider community for their support.

“I am grateful to the Gallery Board for its continued support. The unique Board model has allowed for the collection and preservation of artwork and been a great enabler to growing the Gallery’s contemporary art collection, which is now one of the finest of any gallery in regional Australia,” she said.

“I am incredibly proud of my work at the Gallery over the past two decades and my contribution to the Gallery’s 131-year history.

“I sincerely thank the talented, hard-working and ambitious Gallery team and also the Bendigo community for its unwavering support. To walk around and see businesses and residents respond so positively to the work of the Gallery is overwhelming and heart-warming.

“I am sorry to be leaving but the Gallery is in a strong position to continue to deliver its world-class exhibition program.”

City of Greater Bendigo Acting Chief Executive Officer Bernie O’Sullivan wished Ms Quinlan well in her new role.

Under Karen’s guidance, the Gallery has undergone a significant period of growth and change, and is widely recognised as one of Australia's largest and most successful regional galleries, with an international reputation for delivering high quality exhibitions, many undertaken with overseas partners,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“Karen’s departure is a considerable loss for our organisation but her appointment to the National Portrait Gallery of Australia reflects the standing of both Karen and Bendigo Art Gallery in Australia’s arts industry. The National Portrait Gallery is very fortunate to be welcoming such an accomplished, strategic and visionary leader.”

Board Chair Garry Quinn thanked Ms Quinlan for her years of service to the Gallery and Bendigo.

“Karen has made an indelible contribution to the Gallery and her vision and drive have elevated this institution beyond all expectations. Although we are very sorry to see her go, we wish Karen every success with her well-deserved new position as the Director of the National Portrait Gallery of Australia and have no doubt she will continue to be very successful,” Mr Quinn said.

Ms Quinlan’s new role was announced this morning in Canberra and she will take up her role on December 10. She will finish with the City in late November.


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