A surprise announcement from the NT Government has revealed the replacement of the existing Director of the Museum & Art Gallery of the NT (MAGNT) “ Pierre Arpin “ by Marcus Schutenko, the current CEO of the Museum of Chinese Australian History in Melbourne. Schutenko won’t waste any time following his appointment, arriving to begin his new role next week.

Part of the surprise was that the announcement came from the NT Government’s Arts and Museums Minister, Gary Higgins, rather than from the newly independent Board of MAGNT, chaired by Melbourne QC, Allan Myers. But it was Higgins who thanked the outgoing director, Pierre Arpin for his professionalism and work in the role. When his post was ‘spilled’ in February, Arpin had expressed optimism that he would be re-appointed. And today he added philosophically, “I was looking forward to what I think will be a great Telstra/NATSIA Award in August. Oh well¦”!

Pierre Arpin helped guide the MAGNT through the changeover to a statutory body established under the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory Act, 2014, Minister Higgins said, and I thank him for helping usher the MAGNT into a new era. He has been Director of the MAGNT for four years and in that time has worked tirelessly to maintain the existing collection and build on existing relationships for the betterment of the collection, as well as the people of the Northern Territory.

Minister Higgins did not remind us that the NT Government had cut funding at MAGNT to the bone when it ran the art gallery as part of a bureaucratic department, forcing Arpin to let several essential staff go “ from curators to a photographer.

The MAGNT Board had run an open and competitive selection process and had made a unanimous recommendation to the Minister under the Act to appoint Mr Schutenko. I accepted the Board’s unanimous recommendation of Mr Schutenko, who comes to the role with a solid background in museum administration and management, Mr Higgins said.

Interestingly, Schutenko began life as a freelance lighting designer, stage and production manager and theatre technician, and went on to manage a small pub theatre in Melbourne, The Store Room, which existed during the Noughties. Later he would become Festivals & Events Coordinator for the Victorian Multicultural Commission, then establish the Spiegeltent as a popular part of the Victorian Arts Centre’s programming mix. At the Museum of Chinese Australian History since 2011, he has attracted up to 25,000 schoolkids a year and 10,000 older visitors as well as conceiving and delivering Bridge of Memories, an international exhibition about migration from China to Australia which toured six venues in four cities in China. Coals to Newcastle!

There seems to be a shortage of familiarity with Indigenous cultural issues in Marcus Schutenko’s CV “ a potential issue in the light of MAGNT’s centrality in administering and delivering the annual National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art Awards. MAGNT is also expanding its visual arts activities into The Chan Building in Darwin city centre and will soon reveal to the world the fabulous assemblage of early Papunya boards “ the foundation texts of the whole Aboriginal art movement “ which have been in its collection and all-but invisible for 40 years.

Good luck Marcus.