Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

New broom sweeps out gallery chiefs

Auckland Art Gallery director Chris Saines. Photo / Richard Robinson
Auckland Art Gallery director Chris Saines. Photo / Richard Robinson

Business-focused coup sees director Chris Saines advised to apply for 'cultural' post.

Auckland Art Gallery director Chris Saines and three of his four-member executive team have been "disestablished" to create a more commercially focused management structure at the 124-year-old institution.

Mr Saines, gallery director since 1996, has been stripped of his operational and financial role and invited to apply for the proposed role of cultural director. Three of his four-strong executive team - head of operations Catherine Lomas, head of services Pat Morgan, head of programmes Louise Pether and head of development Prue Smith - have lost their jobs and been invited to apply for jobs in the new structure.

One of the four - it is not known who - will keep their job but get a new title. The shake-up was announced yesterday by Robert Domm, the new chief executive of Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), the council-owned body that oversees the art gallery, Auckland Zoo, Auckland Museum, Mt Smart Stadium and other regional facilities.

Mr Domm said Mr Saines was a "major cultural leader in Auckland" and he had invited him to apply for the proposed role of cultural director, where he would be freed from the administrative burden to focus on his passions and pursuits he was good at.

A general manager position was being created to focus on operations and financial administration and enhance the gallery's commercial performance.

The commercial directive comes as the number of visitors at the gallery's blockbuster Degas to Dali exhibition fails to meet the forecast number , although retails sales are tracking ahead of budget. It also follows the successful reopening of a $121 million upgrade of the gallery last September, which Mr Saines played a huge and passionate role in delivering.

Mr Domm said Mr Saines had spent more time being a building developer than an artistic leader, and "was looking for new directions and I'm happy to assist him in that process".

Last night, Mr Saines said that while the details of the proposed new role were yet to be worked through "I will definitely be applying for it".

Mr Domm said the other affected members of the executive had been guaranteed jobs in the wider Regional Facilities Auckland organisation if they failed to get jobs in the art gallery management restructure.

The restructuring comes four months after Mr Domm took over the reins at RFA from former North Shore City chief executive John Brockies.

The Australian has a background in planning and managing tourism precincts, including The Rocks, Darling Harbour, the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Sydney Entertainment Centre.

As part of a "strategic framework" he has announced a centralised marketing and communication plan for the gallery, Auckland Zoo and Mt Smart Stadium.

- NZ Herald

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