Glenn D. Lowry, Director, MoMA, The Hon. Premier Daniel Andrews and Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV with Umberto Boccioni’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space, 1913 (cast 1931). Photo: Scott Rudd
I'm no physicist but even I'm wondering when the heck the NGV will catch on to a cultural tipping point (to refresh: the point at which an object is displaced from a state of stable equilibrium into a new equilibrium state qualitatively dissimilar from the first).
The gallery recently announced it had secured 150 master modern and contemporary works from New York's MoMA for its Masterpiece exhibition slot in 2018. You would think this would be cause for celebration, right?
The MoMA collection holds a special place in my heart and history. It was at MoMA in a small room devoted to the works of the Russian Constructivists that I had a lightening bolt style epiphany that changed the course of my life and led me to train as a graphic designer.
But even this piece of 90s nostalgia did not temper my physical recoil at the news. I am not exaggerating. Actual recoil. I might have noted, though only subconsciously, that the long list of greats - other than Lyubov Popova - was made up of men.
But it was the photo of the power elite – establishment heavy hitters Tony Elwood, MoMA's Glenn Lowry and State Premier Daniel Andrews – standing in front of the Mark Rothko that did it. Most likely they were celebrating. For the rest of us, the men and women dreaming of a different world, one where women's work and achievements are celebrated and where women are visible, and participate – maybe even take the lead – in decision making, it was a moment of despair.
The sheer fact the NGV released the photos for press, without embarrassment or reserve, is a revealing admission on the part of this state institution which is happy to parade and promote white male privilege. Go on, broadcast your values and organisational culture. Though it's frankly nothing to celebrate. Nothing.