WA Art Gallery’s $300m collection at risk of damage, damning auditor-general report finds
The WA Art Gallery lacks space to store its works appropriately, the report found. (ABC News: Louise Merrillees)
Western Australia’s $300 million state art collection is at risk of damage or loss thanks to a lack of storage space and appropriate conservation, an auditor-general’s report has found.
The report, released today by acting auditor-general Sandra Labuschange, said the collection was at risk because of “storage, conservation and monitoring issues”.
It found the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA), which manages the collection, does not know where all its works are stored nor what condition they are in.
This is because its database is poorly documented, key records are incomplete and there has been no stocktake since 2010.
“AGWA struggles to balance its responsibilities to grow and also preserve the state’s $300 million art collection,” the report stated.
“A significant shortage of appropriate storage space places artworks at risk of damage from not being stored in line with industry standards, and limits access to the collection for conservation work and public engagement.
“AGWA does not have a plan to ensure all artworks are conserved, with conservation almost entirely focused on the small part of the collection going on display each year.”
The Art Gallery has admitted it has some “critical” issues to address. (Matthew Perkins: ABC Local Radio)
‘Fixing the issues will not be easy’
It identified 99 artworks that needed treatment more than seven years ago.
It is unclear whether these works have been treated.
“Establishing a plan is particularly important given the limited resources AGWA has available to carry out this work,” the report found.
The report praised the way the gallery had attracted visitors over the years, but said more needed to be done to reach a regional WA audience.
A number of recommendations were made, including a fixing the lack of storage space, making artwork more accessible and steps to better manage and maintain the location and condition of the collection.
“While fixing the issues will not be easy in a time of restrained government spending, the AGWA staff we met showed a dedication and passion to finding ways to address the issues,” Ms Labuschange said.
Gallery recognises ‘critical’ issues
In its reply, AGWA accepted the findings on the need to improve the care and management of the collection, and the need to broaden its access.
It said it recognised the “critical” need for additional storage and was working with the Government to find a “speedy” offsite solution.
AGWA said there was scope to improve its recordkeeping and it was working to implement improvements to its system.
It said it was working to develop an improved stocktake system and “control” of art works by June 2019.
“AGWA will also develop a multi-year project as part of its conservation program to implement a safe tagging and external tracking system,” a spokesman said
AGWA said it was working on a three-year pilot program to tour “more high quality visual arts exhibitions” to regional communities.