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Lisa Slade leaving AGSA for Hugh Ramsay Chair

New chapter for AGSA Assistant Director, Artistic Programs Dr Lisa Slade, Art Daily, June 2024

Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History, The University of Melbourne, Dr Lisa Slade. Photo: Sia Duff.

ADELAIDE.- Art Gallery of South Australia Assistant Director, Artistic Programs Dr Lisa Slade has been appointed to the role of the Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History at The University of Melbourne, one of the most prestigious appointments of its kind in Australia.

The Hugh Ramsay Chair was created by a visionary endowment from Faculty of Arts alumna Patricia Fullerton, the grand-niece of the famous Australian artist Hugh Ramsay (1877-1906) and is now memorialized in this important role. The position is based in the Art History Program in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne and will play an important leadership role in linking the academic program to the wider arts community and fostering public engagement.

Dr Slade joined the team at AGSA as Project Curator in 2011, this role saw her curate notable exhibitions focussed on South Australian art including HEARTLAND: Contemporary Art from South Australia (with co-curator Nici Cumpston OAM) and The extreme climate of Nicholas Folland. In 2015 she was appointed to the newly created position of Assistant Director, Artistic Programs.

Alongside former AGSA Director Nick Mitzevich and Nici Cumpston she worked with the South Australian government to initiate and develop Tarnanthi: Festival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art in 2015. In 2017 she helped lead the case for the Ramsay Art Prize, supported in perpetuity by the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation and since 2011 she has overseen the presentation of the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art and lead AGSA’s artistic program.

While in her leadership role at AGSA, Slade was awarded a PhD in Art History from Monash University in 2017 with her thesis, Curating curiosity: an antipodean doubling, deeply informing her research and her curatorial practice. Of her appointment as Hugh Ramsay Chair in Australian Art History she says, ‘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. I wish to create a bridge from galleries and museums to universities and the public.’

Professor Claire Roberts, Head of the University of Melbourne’s Art History and Curatorship Program and a member of the panel that appointed Dr Slade after a highly competitive selection process, said: ‘Dr Slade brings a wealth of experience in teaching, researching and curating Australian art. Her deep understanding of Australian art, and her extensive networks including her connections with Indigenous Australian artists, will contribute in exciting ways to the work of the program, and to the public mission of the University.’

Undoubtedly one of Dr Slade’s strengths is her innate ability to translate art history to non-specialist audiences and this can be seen through the fearless, innovative and transformative way in which the Gallery displays the collection and exhibitions in AGSA’s distinct curatorial signature.

‘I am incredibly proud to have championed public engagement and inspire the team at AGSA to make new audiences for art and new art for audiences. 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.’ She said.

Art Gallery Board Chair Sandy Verschoor thanked Dr Slade for her extensive contribution to the Gallery and to the state’s creative culture more broadly. She also acknowledged her support to past Director Nick Mitzevich and outgoing Director Rhana Devenport ONZM.

Verschoor stated, ‘Dr Slade’s new position demonstrates the strength of the Gallery’s artistic leadership. Her passion for the Gallery, its collection, and audiences is abundant, and her enthusiasm is infectious.’

‘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.’

This presents an opportunity for a new artistic leadership team with the current search for a Director underway. During the transition period, Emma Fey, Assistant Director Operations has been appointed Acting Director.

Verschoor said, ‘AGSA is ready to extend the baton to a new team of cultural leaders to champion the voices of artists through the Gallery’s exhibitions and offerings. The Board is excited by the prospect of appointing a Director and Assistant Director who can realise the vision of a new Gallery, persons with relevant experience in managing a billion-dollar art collection, an immensely talented curatorial team and realising the Gallery’s desire to be the most inspiring art destination in Australia’.

Slade has been deeply honoured to be part of AGSA’s legacy and helping to shape its future. Highlights of Slade’s achievements at the Gallery over more than a decade include:

  • Curator of Kulata Tjuta for the Musée des Beaux Arts in Brittany and the Musées d’Art et d’Histoire in Le Havre, Normandy. Against all odds this exhibition of art from the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands was presented during Covid-19 with 34 artists showcased with the support of the South Australian government and the APY Art Centre Collective.
  • Curator of Living Rocks, selected as one of 21 Official Collateral Events of the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia 2019 from 8 May – 24 November 2019. Exhibited at the Magazzini del Sale this project marked the first time that South Australia had a singular presence at the world’s oldest and most prestigious biennale and was experienced by 71,703 visitors.
  • Former Chair of art journal Artlink Australia, established in Adelaide in 1981, which has played a critical role in the elevation of art writing, including the elevation of First Nations voices.
  • Curator of the 14th Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Magic Object and in the same year curated Sappers & Shrapnel: contemporary art and the art of the trenches funded by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund. This project was also the focus of a chapter in the 2023 Bloomsbury publication, The Politics of Artists in War Zones.
  • Tenure as Chair of The National Cultural Heritage Committee (NCHC) who are responsible for advising the Federal government on matters of cultural heritage.
  • Coordinator, with Professor Catherine Speck, of the Art History program delivered by the Gallery and The University of Adelaide from 2011-2020.
  • A passionate national advocate of Australian art history delivering keynotes and guest presentations across the country; cultivating media relationships to advocate for the role of art; and sparking debates and influencing decision-making regarding the role of the arts in policy.
  • Leading robust arts debate in the media, she is frequently heard representing AGSA on ABC’s The Mix, Radio National’s Books and Arts, local and national radio, and the 7.30 Report. She was also appointed art historian on the ABC’s Australian Art series, Hannah Gadsby’s Oz made with South Australia’s Closer Productions.