News & Commentary, Visual Arts

Protesters dye NGV’s moats and water wall red over detention centre concerns

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A group of artists and arts workers calling themselves the Artists’ Committee has today stepped up its protest against the National Gallery of Victoria over its contract with Wilson Security.

Red dye was poured into the large moats surrounding the front of the NGV building on St Kilda Road, and also into the famous “water wall” at the gallery’s entrance. The group released a statement ensuring the public that the dye was safe and not going to cause any permanent damage to the gallery’s facade.

Wilson was appointed as an interim security contractor for the gallery in late July this year, and by early August 1500 members of the arts community had signed a letter to NGV Director Tony Ellwood asking him to drop the security company over its involvement in offshore detention centres in Manus and Nauru.

The letter said that Wilson has been “violently enforcing the imprisonment of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia’s offshore immigration detention centres” since it was appointed security provider to those centres in 2012.

The group pointed to Guardian Australia’s investigation titled the Nauru Files, which uncovered extensive allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

Ellwood responded soon after, advising that Wilson was an interim contractor selected from the Victorian Government security services panel. The company had been appointed following allegations that former provider BRI Security had paid cash in hand to its security guards.

Ellwood said the gallery would be appointing a long-term security provider later this year following a public tender process, and thanked the committee for voicing concerns of the artistic community.

The Artists’ Committee held another protest last Friday, when a group of protesters entered the gallery and covered the NGV’s popular Picasso painting “Weeping Woman” with a black veil emblazoned with the Wilson Security logo.

Wilson Security will no longer provide services to Nauru or Manus when its contract ends this month. The company said last year that the contract was no longer in line with its strategic priorities.

[box]Featured image source: Twitter @akaWACA[/box]

4 responses to “Protesters dye NGV’s moats and water wall red over detention centre concerns

  1. Other than the ethics of appointing Wilson to any position of trust, there is a real risk to any art museum in having outside contractors in charge of security. Long term staff get to know the collection, other staff, the regular rituals of the building and are therefore less likely to be fooled by would be thieves.

    1. Just a query in response to this comment. I believe the NGV has relied on external security contractors for well over 10 years – maybe as long as 20 years??. Where are the examples of an artwork being damaged or stolen during that time that supports the contention that the use of external security contractors “a real risk to any art museum …”? The only instance I can recall in relatively recent years is the vandalism of the Andre Serrano “Piss Christ” photograph in 1997, but that was 20 years ago and I’m not sure whether internal or external security would have prevented this crime. The only other example I can recall is the theft of Picasso’s “Weeping Woman” back in 1986, and the security were internal security staff. I also recall the days of internal security staff at the NGV, a lot of old men who always appeared half asleep or were actually asleep, especially in the afternoon after taking a few pints during lunch.

  2. Quite right Joanna. The State Library of NSW sacked their security team in favour of outsourced security. X months later and 1 million dollars worth of rare coins were stolen from exhibition space …

  3. Politics and Art have a long tradition of ‘connection’.
    Every one who defines himself/herself as artist ought to be outraged by the way refugees and asylum seekers are being treated by both the Left and the Right (and Centre) sides of politics.

    Somewhere along the path of ‘nationalism’, ‘identity’ and Borders, the majority of voters and political parties have forgotten that Asylum Seekers and Refugees are people.

    The Asylum Seekers / Refugees issue and the engagement of Wilson Security issue have nothing to do with security. These are issues of Ethics and morality!

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