Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

QVMAG progress structured plan, process &

Tarlia Jordan, City of Launceston council continue search for Brett Whiteley painting, The Examiner, 19 January 2019

The Waves V drawing was acquired by the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in 1976 and hasn’t been seen since.

During question time at last fortnight’s council meeting, Councillor Paul Spencer asked where the painting was. The question was taken on notice.

A response to the question was provided by the council’s creative arts and cultural services manager Tracy Puklowski in this week’s agenda.

“QVMAG staff are alert and aware of the mislaid work and have been instructed to look for the red Brett Whiteley seal on the work,” she said.

The council has undertaken a “thorough” physical search of the fine art store, as well as digitally searching for information relating to the acquisition, display of the painting or loaning of the Whiteley.

Physical file searches were also conducted.

Previous staff members employed when the work was acquired have been contacted. The council has also contacted the Art Gallery of New South Wales where it was displayed prior to acquisition.

The council’s conservation has confirmed the work is not in the laboratory or that there were any indications the work was ever with QVMAG’s conservation team.

“A QVMAG collections officer specialising in history, has searched the QVMAG archives in his care and located further evidence it was receipted in 1976. No further files or information have been located in the archive yet,” Ms Puklowski said.

“Tas Police were alerted to the missing work, but are unable to activate an investigation at this stage due to QVMAG being unable to confirm with certainty that it is not on QVMAG premises.”

The response confirms the location of the painting is “currently unknown”, but a “strategic” approach to conducting an audit of the collections is currently underway.

Ms Puklowski said there is only one missing work.

“The Whiteley drawing is missing from the fine art store, but it may be in another store or location on QVMAG property,” she said.

“QVMAG are not currently aware of any other mislaid works from the collection.”

Collection audits can take upto 10 years to complete and require significant resourcing, she said.

“Being mindful of these resources, a structured plan, procurement process and framework will be implemented,” Ms Puklowski said.

“This is an ongoing piece of work, but is vital to the eventual outcome of fully digitised collections which will create unprecedented access to our cultural treasures.”

Staff became concerned about the drawing’s whereabouts earlier this year after researchers inquired about the art work

The drawing was recorded as having entered the museum’s collection when purchased in 1976 for $800, but there has been no further record of it since – and it has never been displayed.

The value of Waves V is unknown, however works of similar media, content and size have recently sold from anywhere between $20,000 and $30,000.

More than 200,000 individual items are in QVMAG’s collection.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2019
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