Misogyny ‘just a modus operandi for politics in Australia’, says former museum director | Art

Misogyny ‘just a modus operandi for politics in Australia’, says former museum director | Art

One of Australia’s most influential figures in the visual arts has broken her silence on the bullying and sexism she faced at the helm of one of the country’s leading cultural institutions.

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, who was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia earlier this year for “significant service to museums and galleries”, left her post as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney (MCA) in last October, after 22 years in this position.

In farewell interviews, the Scottish art historian and curator tactfully recounted the challenges she faced over two decades at the MCA.

Under his leadership, the gallery grew from an expensive institution that saw only 100,000 visitors a year to a pioneering cultural attraction with over a million people passing through its doors each year.

However, in a podcast interview published on Thursday, Macgregor detailed for the first time the hostility she encountered at all levels of politics after moving to Australia.

“I’m going to be completely honest…it was misogyny,” Macgregor said on the latest episode of the Blenheim Partners No Limitations Podcastwhen interviewer Gregory Robinson asked her what she found most difficult during her early days in Australia.

“And [at the time] I didn’t realize it…because I hadn’t really met him before.

Macgregor said she had been “screamed at…many times” by men working at all levels of government during her career, saying “it was pretty nasty to be quite outspoken”.

“Anyone who has dealt with certain levels of political discourse will have dealt with this, whether it’s federal or state or even, council level,” she said.

“It’s just a modus operandi for politics in this country, and maybe politics everywhere, although I’ve never found it as vicious as here.”

Macgregor did not name names during the discussion.

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There have been well-documented public clashes over his career, such as with former Sydney Mayor Frank Sartor – who had wanted to turn the imposing monolithic harbor gallery into an exclusive hotel, and with the former Art Gallery of NSW manager Edmund Capon – who wanted to annex the MCA to his own institution. Macgregor said Sartor was “well intentioned” and they eventually became “very good friends and colleagues”. She did not imply that Sartor or Capon were misogynistic or intimidating towards her.

Macgregor said she was forced to fight on multiple fronts against politicians who wanted to protect the real estate ambitions of others.

“There were all these people who wanted different deals because the museum was in this incredible position…the politics were brutal, I have to say,” she said. “But once we were established, I had a lot of fun proving them wrong.

“A few people said to me, ‘Why don’t you get on a plane and go?’ But I didn’t, because there was so much support… I just had to keep faith that we could pull through and not lose. It wasn’t even trust. It was just pure bravado. »

Macgregor, who previously promised to write a revealing book about her time in Australia, said in the interview that “Sydney being who she is” it took her a while to realize that she ” wasted a lot of time” listening to men with bad ideas, having to tell them “things had already been tried and, you know, weren’t going so well.

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