31 May 2024

'Watch this space', says Wollongong Art Gallery's incoming director

| Dione David
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Daniel Mudie Cunningham in front of Wollongong Art Gallery

Daniel Mudie Cunningham takes on the role of Director at Wollongong Art Gallery from 12 August. Photo: Wollongong City Council.

He’s graced the hallowed halls of major art institutions like Carriageworks, Artbank and Performance Space, but Daniel Mudie Cunningham’s heart lies in his strong connection with regional galleries.

That’s why it’ll feel so natural to step up to the helm of Wollongong Art Gallery from 12 August this year when incumbent Director John Monteleone steps into retirement.

“I admire the role regional galleries play within their communities. They’re essential access points to art and creativity, not just with their exhibitions but also their education and children’s programs – things that can lead to unexpected encounters with contemporary culture,” Daniel says.

“Regional galleries are the best at that, and Wollongong Art Gallery is one of the best regional galleries in the country.

“It’s an honour to step into this role. It’s big, but I’m up for the challenge.”

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The leading artist, curator, writer and lecturer has long had a connection to the city – having family in the area made it his “childhood stomping ground”.

He has worked with the gallery in a curatorial capacity and as an artist on numerous occasions, most recently with his career survey Are you There? which was shown at Wollongong Art Gallery last year.

Though the 2024 program is set, Daniel is already brimming with ideas for what he can do in 2025 but stresses it will be a collaborative journey.

“With any new leadership there’s an opportunity for change and revitalisation. I am conscious of the privilege of the position, to have the chance to breathe new life into something that’s already so loved,” he says.

“I am interested in exploring ways to support artists who haven’t been supported before, and opportunities to tell stories that haven’t been told – in the art sector but also local stories that can be responded to by artists. That’s the beauty of regional galleries, it’s something they do so well.

“That said, there is already a great program, an incredible collection of about 3500 objects that I look forward to becoming better acquainted with and a legacy that in just four years will turn 50.

“I do have a vision and look forward to bringing my expertise to the role, but I know you can easily go into these roles with a few assumptions that can get blown out of the water when you start getting your hands dirty. So it’s a bit ‘watch this space’. Until then I’ll be engaging in conversation and collaboration with the Wollongong Art Gallery team and the local community.”

READ ALSO City Libraries on the hunt for stories from Wollongong’s hidden history

Mr Mudie Cunningham’s appointment follows an extensive recruitment process. The panel who considered applicants for the next gallery director included representatives from Wollongong City Council and Museums and Galleries NSW.

“We were really impressed with the calibre of applicants for this essential role that fosters, supports and advocates for the city’s cultural and creative landscape,” Wollongong City Council Director Community Services Kerry Hunt says.

“Wollongong Art Gallery is one of the largest regional art museums in the country and we’re really excited to see what Daniel brings to the role and how the gallery can continue to play a pivotal role in the city’s cultural landscape.”

Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM says some residents may be familiar with Mr Mudie Cunningham’s work, particularly those who saw his 2023 exhibition.

“This exhibition spanned his 30 years of creative practice and showcases how his work is influenced by art history, queer politics, pop culture, performance and music,” Cr Bradbery says.

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