Gallery set to make an Impact
Art Gallery of WA Director Stefano Carboni. Picture: Michael Wilson/The West Australian

The Art Gallery of WA is staying open late and promoting its recent art purchases to plug the gaping hole left by the collapse of the modern-masterpieces series exhibitions from the Museum of Modern Art.

Necessity being the mother of invention, gallery director Stefano Carboni delved into the State collection to assemble the Impact exhibition of 21st century art.

Impact, a free exhibition dominated by cutting-edge video art, replaces MoMA's Stranger Than Fiction, which was to have opened last weekend as part of the Perth International Arts Festival.

The gallery will extend its opening hours this month until 7pm daily, except Tuesdays, to capture crowds from Fringe World and PIAF events in the Perth Cultural Centre.

Dr Carboni said he had intended to open until 9pm for the MoMA show but tight budgets meant the gallery could not afford the extended hours for Impact.

He said it was impossible to find a replacement touring exhibition at such short notice after poor ticket sales and high insurance costs forced him to cancel the six-part MoMA series in November.

Nearly all the 25 artworks in Impact have been bought in the past few years through the gallery's projected $25 million TomorrowFund.

The fund also has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a major work by leading South African artist William Kentridge.

The Refusal of Time, Kentridge's multichannel video and "breathing-machine" installation, will be on show next door at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art from February 13.

Dr Carboni said he had no regrets about his "overambitious" MoMA project and the gallery's management remained committed to finding new ways to bring the best art to the people of WA.

The former Metropolitan Museum of Art chief curator of Islamic art has more than four years to run on his contract.

He said the MoMA partnership collapse had been "an aberration" in the gallery's Great Collections of the World series, which started in 2010 with shows from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and London's Victoria and Albert Museum.

For future ventures, Dr Carboni would seek to offset travel and insurance costs by collaborating with other institutions in the region. "I don't see any reason why we can't share with Brisbane or Melbourne or Sydney and Singapore or Hong Kong and make it less expensive," he said.

Dr Carboni said there were no outstanding cancellation payments from severing the MoMA contract.

It was time to re-examine the gallery's direction and how it could be a stronger cultural force in the region, he said. "Who are we and what do we want to be two generations from now? That is an interesting debate," he said.

He rejected suggestions that projected visitor numbers of 1350 per day for the MoMA shows had been unrealistic. The final turnout was half that amount.

"We felt confident that exhibitions of this calibre would have been in the range of other past exhibitions, Egyptian Antiquities from the Louvre (1400 a day) and Monet in Japan (2000 a day)," Dr Carboni said.

He said he was close to signing a deal with a major international artist for a project in Perth in September to supplement this year's schedule that included Guy Grey-Smith and Richard Avedon exhibitions.

Impact includes works by leading international artists Jesper Just, Hale Tenger, Michael Snow and Richard Grayson alongside those by Australian artists Angelica Mesiti, Stuart Ringholt and Rebecca Baumann.

Showing in tandem with Impact is a collection of modern masters from the Kerry Stokes Collection. PIAF runs from Friday to March 1.

The West Australian

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