Robert Henderson Art gallery can do better: Jeff McCloy
HIS departure wasn’t without a few barbs aimed squarely at his nemesis. Nor was he happy about having to go.
But Robert Henderson, who resigned on Wednesday night as chairman of Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation, was never going to go quietly.
The man pushed to the front line of the battle between the art gallery and Newcastle council said his outspoken ways during the Brett Whiteley sculpture fiasco had made him an enemy of the council’s hierarchy.
‘‘Clearly, my criticism … of the current council needed to be silenced,’’ he told 1233 ABC from Turkey on Thursday.
‘‘This is the way they found to do it,’’ he added, suggesting the council would not work with the foundation in future while ever he was chairman.
Mr Henderson was constantly at odds with council general manager Ken Gouldthorp and lord mayor Jeff McCloy throughout the Whiteley affair, and earlier when they stood down and later sacked gallery director Ron Ramsey along with his departmental manager Judy Jaeger over the mishandling of the art gallery expansion project.
Mr Henderson stood by them again on Thursday, but two independent reports don’t paint Mr Ramsey or Ms Jaeger in a good light. The second, released earlier this month, showed the pair had wrongfully authorised payments for massive cost blowouts in the expansion project and failed to notify bosses or the elected council.
In a statement issued late on Thursdaythe foundation confirmed Mr Henderson’s departure.
‘‘The directors of Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation accepted, with great regret, the resignation of its chairman Dr Robert Henderson,’’ the statement read.
‘‘They acknowledged his outstanding contribution to the foundation and the many achievements the foundation was able to realise during the time of his chairmanship.
‘‘Mrs Judy Hart has been appointed as acting chairman and Mr Bob Bishop acting vice chairman.
Mr Gouldthorp was not commenting on the matter. In a statement issued by the council, a spokesperson said ‘‘the position of chair of the foundation is a matter for the foundation board’’.
‘‘Council looks forward to working with all stakeholders including the Art Gallery Society, Art Gallery Foundation, local artists and education institutions to continue to grow our art and cultural offering,’’ it said.
Lord mayor Jeff McCloy said he had nothing to add, other than ‘‘I wish Robert Henderson the best, but we have to move the gallery forward’’.
Newcastle Art Gallery Pictured controversial Brett Whiteley sculpture. Picture by DEAN OSLAND
NEWCASTLE Art Gallery Foundation president Robert Henderson has resigned, accusing Newcastle council of forcing his hand over the well-publicised Brett Whiteley sculpture fiasco.
The move follows almost 12 months of tensions between the foundation and council which came to a head in March when the council suspended and later sacked the gallery’s director Ron Ramsey and his departmental manager Judy Jaeger.
Earlier in February, the council suspended all transactions with the foundation – a fund-raising body attached to the gallery – after council general manager Ken Gouldthorp said the council had concerns about the Whiteley deal and its ‘‘compliance with Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Regulation 2013, taxation legislation, the Commonwealth Government’s Cultural Gift Program and the Foundation’s trust deed’’.
The foundation has confirmed that Mr Henderson is no longer its president.
Mr Henderson is currently holidaying in Turkey, but told ABC 1233 this morning that a gun had effectively been held at his head by the council.
He said the council had made it clear that it could not work with the foundation in the future while he was chairman, so he was forced to reluctantly resign.
‘‘If my position was being used as a reason (for the stand-off), then clearly I had to resign,’’ he said.
Mr Gouldthorp is not commenting on the matter. In a statement issued to the Herald, a council spokesperson said ‘‘the position of chair of the foundation is a matter for the foundation board’’.
‘‘A new exhibition will be opened at Newcastle Art Gallery on Friday evening focusing on pieces from the local collection and incorporating local artists,’’ the statement continued.
‘‘Council looks forward to working with all stakeholders including the Art Gallery Society, Art Gallery Foundation, local artists and education institutions to continue to grow our Art and Cultural offering.’’