One of Kirsty Grant’s earliest memories of the Heide Museum of Modern Art dates back to the 1990s. As a student in the then-relatively new curatorial studies course at Melbourne University, her class visited the museum, where founding director Maudie Palmer regaled the group with stories of transforming Heide from a fabled private residence into a museum.

“I certainly didn’t imagine at that time that I might one day be Heide’s director,” Grant says.

In August, Heide’s long-time director and CEO, Jason Smith, announced he would be leaving to take a curatorial role at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art in November. The search for his replacement began.

This week the Heide board announced it had selected Grant, who is currently the senior curator of Australian painting, sculpture and decorative arts to 1980 at the National Gallery of Victoria, for the role. She begins in January.

“Heide is absolutely unique within Melbourne as a place where you can experience great art in a beautiful environment, against the rich backdrop of the story of John and Sunday Reed’s lives,” Grant says. “Because of this history, and the way that it resonates throughout the site, there is an intimate and personal element to the Heide experience that doesn’t exist elsewhere.

“I am incredibly excited about joining the Heide family, and consider it an immense privilege,” she says.

Grant was the, “Standout candidate in an exceptionally strong field,” a statement by the Heide board said, due to her expertise in modern Australian art and her significant curatorial experience. In her time at the NGV, where she has worked since 1994, Grant was responsible for curating exhibitions by some of Australia’s most famous and important artists, such as Fred Williams and John Brack.

Her most-recent curatorial work at the NGV includes the sensational Mid-Century Modern: Australian Furniture Design exhibition, and a striking and vivid retrospective of abstractionist Robert Jacks.

Grant says she is looking forward to building on the international exhibition program at Heide, and further developing its sculpture park, which she thinks is underutilised and not, “Enjoyed by visitors as much as it could be.” To achieve this, she would like to continue to add to that collection, but also introduce a program of events that take place in the sculpture garden.

In the meantime, she has some farewells to make; she leaves the NGV after 20 years at the museum, where she began as curator of Australian prints and drawings.

“Leaving the National Gallery of Victoria after so many years is, of course, tinged with a little sadness,” she says, and it’s her NGV colleagues whom she will miss most.

“And of course,” she adds, “the extraordinary collection.”

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