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Benalla Art Gallery appoints new director

Bryony Nainby wants to combine international and local art in her role as Benalla Art Gallery's new director.

LIBBY PRICE August 15, 2014 3:51am

Bryony Nainby is the newly appointed Director of the Benalla Art Gallery.


Benalla Art Gallery’s new director, Bryony Nainby, is a woman on a mission. She’s passionate about contemporary art and has bold plans to bring international exhibitions to Benalla, and cites the success of the Bendigo art gallery.

‘‘Bendigo (art gallery) is doing an amazing job of presenting international shows. They’ve got quite a big budget and they’ve really worked with their tourism department to build that up, and I think that’s a great example of what regional galleries can do with a long-term vision,’’ Ms Nainby said.

‘‘I think what we need to do is work out what a great focus for Benalla is for the future and just be open, completely open, to what the local flavour of the region might really lend itself to. But certainly I’d be very interested at looking at international shows.’’

While this is her first appointment as a director, Ms Nainby was curator of the Gippsland Gallery in Sale, and has held curatorial and management roles at the La Trobe regional gallery in Morwell. Most recently she was a senior curator at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, with her main project for the past three years being managing a collaboration between that gallery and MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). The exhibition Theatre of the World curated by internationally regarded French curator Jan-Hubert Martin was so successful it went to Paris.

‘‘Because Jan-Hubert is a French living treasure with high level government status, the exhibition toured to Paris and so I went to Paris with the show last year to manage the tour and then that led to other opportunities and I’ve been living in Paris for most of this year,’’ Ms Nainby said.

It might be a long way from Paris to Benalla, nonetheless Ms Nainby is still excited by the collection.

‘‘I think Benalla has the best of everything that regional galleries have to offer ... The collection is extraordinary, and how we continue that level and whether we introduce a more defined focus or whether it stays as a general collection is something that we really need to discuss in the future,’’ she said.

‘‘One of my passions is to really engage with the local talent to produce really great shows and to look at really re-engaging the community in the gallery. I’m quite internationally focused but I really want to be locally engaged, so my vision for the gallery is ... we will be a very diverse program that will include everyone from local art groups to international artists but everything will be great quality and we will be looking at ways to engage the community in every exhibition that we run.’’

As for the Benalla Nude, would she consider it a success that’s worth repeating?

‘‘We’re in the process of reviewing The Nude to see how we can do it in the future,’’ Ms Nainby said.

‘‘There’s a lot of enthusiastic support, but it’s about the timing and making it sustainable. It was definitely a success but it was also a learning experience. I’ll certainly look at different ways of marketing it to attract a bigger crowd. I think it can only get bigger and better.’’

And for her general philosophy?

‘‘People are always interested in being challenged by artwork but I think it’s the gallery’s responsibility to help people understand what they’re seeing, so that people shouldn’t be left feeling perplexed. They should feel challenged but they should also feel like they’ve been given the opportunity to understand why that work is being shown.

‘‘So I want a very engaging experience here from inspiration to enjoyment, delight and to be challenged. That may not happen in any one individual show but throughout the course of a year’s program I would hope to offer the people of Benalla and visitors that broad spectrum of experience.’’

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