Friday, July 27, 2018


Virginia Rigney meets the critics
By Meredith Hinchliffe
NEWLY-appointed Senior Curator Visual Arts at Canberra Museum and Gallery, Virginia Rigney, spoke to a good crowd of Critics Circle members at CMAG board room on July 23.
Virginia and her twin brother grew up in an architect-designed house in Campbell.  Her parents lived in this house for 52 years and it suited the family well.  Virginia’s interest in art was undoubtedly sparked by her mother’s – there were many art books around the house.
Virginia mentioned that while nostalgia can throw a sentimental veil over our relationship to the past, she believes in the potential of history to be reframed through contemporary practice.  In this vein she described Canberra as both a porous and global city, and is interested in the potential of programming exhibitions to complement Canberra’s international significance and to place Canberra artists in that dialogue.
Several exhibitions and projects she has been involved in have an historical element.  In 2013 Virginia was commissioned to curate the exhibition Growing up Planned at Canberra Contemporary Art Space. 
Virginia strongly believes in mentoring – she herself was mentored by senior and highly respected curators at the Powerhouse Museum – now Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences when she was employed in the lead up to Australia’s Bicentenary.  She worked at the Art Gallery of New South Wales with prominent curator of fashion, Jane de Teliga, and then in the UK at the Victoria & Albert and Scottish Museums before joining Glasgow Museums as a Curator in a permanent role just prior to that City’s significant year as European City of Culture. 
A jump from Scotland to rural Thailand was followed by some years in Perth and then Darwin where she was witness to the flowering of indigenous arts practice.
When her family relocated to the Gold Coast she became a curator at Gold Coast City Gallery from 2003 to 2016.  There she developed exhibitions that sought to address the perceptions of the city as a place of no culture and little history, including Fibro Coast and Sexualising the City.
She also had a focus on indigenous arts and co-curated Kuru Alala Eyes Open with Tjanpi Desert Weavers, which was awarded the inaugural Museums and Galleries National Award for an exhibition project.  Rigney went on to co-curate, with Michael Aird, the celebrated exhibition Saltwater Country: New works from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artists expressing their relationships to Queensland's coastal environment.  . 
Virginia is also interested in engaging people in curatorial projects outside the museum walls and in collaborations with other artforms including film, dance and theatre.  She collaborated with a Theatre producer and playwright to create a play that responded to the themes of the Fibro Coast exhibition, and in this regard is looking forward to the potential of co-location with the Canberra Theatre Centre.
From her experiences in different cities, Virginia believes that the local museum or art gallery can be a part of one’s everyday civic life and loves that CMAG is located in the heart of the city.  Virginia is keen to contribute to the life of Canberra, as her parents had done and is enjoying rediscovering this continually evolving city.