Very different roles in the art world at the polar extremes of the Territory. One departure, and one death. Both Marcus Schutenko and Steve Ariston will be missed by their respective connections.

The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) has announced that after more than seven years in the role, Marcus Schutenko will be stepping down as its Director in June.

Marcus joined MAGNT in 2015 and quickly took advantage of its newly established statutory status to focus on stakeholder relationships, securing increased funding from governments, philanthropists and corporate sources. This allowed the creation of some specialist positions at MAGNT and the delivery of award winning exhibitions.
The reinstatement of essential art curator positions, the establishment of an engagement team and increasing positions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff have been transformational achievements.

The MAGNT Board and Marcus worked closely in championing an art gallery for Darwin’s State Square, with a $50 million art gallery scheduled to open in 2024. Marcus has also doubled MAGNT’s footprint in Alice Springs, securing funding for and successfully delivering ‘Megafauna Central’ at the Museum of Central Australia.
Chair of MAGNT’s Board, former NT Chief Minister Clare Martin, thanked Schutenko for his energy, commitment and innovation over his seven years as director. “Marcus has made a significant positive difference to our Museum and Art Gallery”.

Marcus worked to place Aboriginal cultural rights and agency at the centre of MAGNT’s business, including reinvigorating the Telstra National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Awards, which now have a First Nations curator. Amongst the important exhibitions delivered under Schutenko’s aegis were three ground breaking exhibitions of Aboriginal culture: a major reveal of MAGNT’s early Papunya boards, Tjungunutja, MAGNT’s first exhibition of a solo Aboriginal artist, the late Ms N Yunupingu, and the Museum of Central Australia’s first fully bilingual exhibition, the ongoing ‘A Frontier Journey’, in Western Arrernte. This is a display of Otto Tschirn’s pioneering photographs, taken between 1915 and 18.

MAGNT is currently consulting on the establishment of a whole of museum Aboriginal advisory body, as well as the development of a 20 year repatriation plan.

Schutenko reflected, “The Northern Territory has such unique and diverse environments, rich Aboriginal cultures and compelling histories. Engaging with all of these at MAGNT has been an incredible experience.”

Marcus will relocate with his family to New Zealand in late 2022. MAGNT will soon commence recruitment for a new Director.

Meanwhile in the Red Centre, the shadowier figure of dealer Steve Ariston has been tragically killed in a motorbike accident near Alice Springs. He and his wife Amy own a respected and very busy Aboriginal art gallery, Palya Proper Fine Art, in the Todd Mall. It currently has more than 300 works on offer online – mainly from Utopia, but also a handful of fine Tommy Watsons. Ariston was also a major wholesaler for galleries across the country – such as Art Mob in Hobart who tipped its subscribers off about the loss. Director Euan Hills commented, “Art Mob has been a long term wholesale customer and has had a number of blockbuster shows assisted by Steve and Amy, including Charmaine Pwerle’s debut and Kudditji Kngwarreye’s retrospective exhibition”.