Protests increase over NGV security contract


The Artists’ Committee, a group of artists and arts workers, have intensified their protest action against the National Gallery of Victoria’s contract with Wilson Security.

In August this year a petition that garnered over 1500 signatures, including art luminaries such as Ross Coulter (who recently exhibited at NGV), Callum Morton, Mikala Dwyer, and international artist, Olafur Olafsson, was presented to the gallery.

The petition called on the gallery to drop the security provider with the group outlining that Wilson Security has a well-documented, public record of serious ethical breaches in its role in offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island, and has come under fire from human rights organisations, including the UN Human Rights Commission and the International Red Cross.

Last Saturday, the moat surrounding the NGV and the famous water wall was turned red as a further protest action by the group. In a statement released, the Artist’s Committee reassured the public that the red dye was nontoxic and would not cause any damage.

Photo: Morganna Magee

This action followed a protest on Friday 6th October where Picasso’s Weeping Woman was covered in a black cloth emblazoned with Wilson Security’s logo. Some 20 signatories stood in front of the painting – blocking security staff from removing it for an hour. The protesters then left, leaving the painting covered.

The artists stated that the Weeping Woman, an image of mourning, was chosen for its depiction of human suffering.

Photo: Kat Soutar

In the wake of these protests, it is further understood that two Melbourne Artist Run Initiatives saw their involvement in an NGV program end when they raised reservations about the security contract with Wilson. The ARIs were to be included in programs attached to the upcoming NGV Triennial. The inaugural exhibition, opening in December will survey art and design from around the world, with work by over 100 artists from 32 countries.

TCB Inc and Bus Projects had been in discussions with the NGV about the Triennial EXTRA program and requested to delay their decision to participate until the NGV had confirmed its selection of a security provider beyond the interim contract. They had also requested a deadline to confirm their participation.

Both ARIs have said that they received a reply from the NGV reiterating that the current security contract was an interim one and that “due to marketing deadlines” they were unable to delay confirmation of the ARIs involvement in the public program. However, both TCB Inc and Bus Projects have said that no firm deadline was communicated.

In a statement from the board of TCB Inc, they expressed surprise with NGV’s response. “TCB feel there is a strong connection between the expression of our concerns about Wilson Security’s contract at the NGV, and our exclusion from the public program.”

A spokesperson for Bus Projects told Art Guide that “it was disappointing” that their request for delaying a decision was denied without a back and forth discussion. They regret that there wasn’t an opportunity to take the conversation further with the NGV.

Responding to the petition back in August, the NGV said that it was “in the process of securing a long-term security services provider, who will be selected and appointed through a public tender process as part of a revised Victorian Government security services panel later this year.”

In response to the questions raised by Art Guide about the ARIs involvement in the Triennial, an NGV spokesperson said “the artists were invited by the NGV to participate in the Gallery’s public program, and they made specific requests regarding the NGV’s security services provider before they would agree to participate.”

“Due to the processes around the State Government procurement, the NGV could not provide the requested assurances to the artists in the required timeframes and we hope to work with them in the future as the NGV values artist run initiatives as part of a vibrant artistic community.”


News Words by Art Guide Australia