Nova Scotia

Annie Leibovitz exhibit delays at Art Gallery of Nova Scotia explained

Earlier this month, a surprise announcement came out of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
It was two years ago when a $20 million collection of artwork by famed photographer, Annie Leibovitz, was donated to the gallery. (Jay LaPrete/Associated Press)

Earlier this month, a surprise announcement came out of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Ray Cronin was suddenly out of the job as director and CEO. Lisa Bugden was appointed as the gallery's interim CEO, assigned for six months.

Bugden had worked as president and CEO of Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia since March 2013. That organization was shut down by the Liberal government in its spring budget.

When asked by CBC Radio's Mainstreet about what's taking so long for the Annie Leibovitz exhibit to be mounted at the AGNS, Bugden says:

"I'm learning about this world and it's quite exciting but it's also quite complex. I think the gallery had hoped to quickly mount a exhibit but the reality is, in doing it right, it does take time. We're talking about a very busy artist with an international following. We need to leverage this opportunity to the best advantage and ensure it helps both the gallery and this province. We are very excited about this. It's a very good news story and it's going to take the time to do it right."

Bugden says there are still a lot of details to be worked out and it can't be rushed.

"[We're] looking at partnerships, looking at international exposure. It means really taking this once-in-a-lifetime gift to put the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on the map. It means looking at a travelling schedule and partners that are much further afield than Halifax, Nova Scotia."

It was two years ago when a $20 million collection of artwork by famed photographer, Annie Leibovitz, was donated to the gallery.

Lisa Bugden was appointed at the gallery's interim CEO, assigned for six months. (www.dartmouthrotary.ca)

Bugden says it's a complex matter.

"I believe what we're dealing with now is a very significant collection that really does require great care and the time to understand not only how we exhibit it properly but how we position and market it and how we can benefit from it long-term. It also means working with a very busy artist to ensure that she is with us and comfortable and excited, just as we are."

Bugden says excitement is building on both sides -- at the AGNS and with Annie Leibovitz -- but no date has been set for the exhibit.

"I really can't say at this point. You know, this is a very new world for me. But I want to make sure that we do the detailed planning and we take the time to ensure that it's done correctly."

"The gallery is at a very interesting point in its history and I believe my background in business development and stakeholder engagement will be key to helping the gallery move forward and explore the future."

Before Bugden's tenure at Film and Creative Industries Nova Scotia, she was a vice president at Nova Scotia Business Inc.

"Well, my background, as I said, is in business development and stakeholder engagement. But we have an excellent team here, led by our chief curator, Sarah Fillmore. Their focus will be on the art and the collection itself and I hope to layer my expertise to move the gallery forward."

When asked about Ray Cronin's contribution to AGNS, she says, "Ray certainly created a very strong foundation and mentored a tremendous team here and was instrumental in expanding the collection and bringing the Leibowitz gift to the gallery. My goal is to build on that firm foundation and to help the gallery and the team explore the future."

"It's a very important point in the gallery's history and we really are focused on blowing the doors wide open and engaging new and different visitors as well as ensuring our long-standing visitors and supporters come to the gallery."

One of the iconic Annie Leibovitz photos awaiting display at the AGNS (Annie Leibovitz)

One of the goals over the next several years will be to start working on getting a new building.

"That's a very exciting discussion that's ongoing both within the halls of the gallery and with our board and our supporters. I believe that it's universally understood that we need a new building. We're talking about protecting a collection that has been lovingly expanded and cared for."

Bugden says there's no timeline on building a new gallery.

"That's a good question. That's part of the discussion as well. But I think the priority now is to ensure that we have a firm foundation in place. That we're connecting with our supporters and our different constituents to understand what do we need going forward and to ensure that we can best position the gallery and get the money in place to do so."

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