IMA Appoints Robert Leonard as Director News

IMA Appoints Robert Leonard as Director

9 January 2023

One of the Asia Pacific region’s most respected and experienced curators, Robert Leonard, is returning to head up Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art (IMA). The IMA is Australia’s oldest independent contemporary art organisation.

IMA Chair Rachel Crowley said “Robert’s tenure as Director from 2005 until 2013 is well recognised as one of the IMA’s most exciting and innovative periods. That he was keen to come back to the role, armed with another near decade’s experience and a raft of new ideas, is exciting for the contemporary arts community in our city, state, and country.”

Mr Leonard said “The IMA is a hub for the Brisbane art community. It has a reputation for fostering important art and for feeding the discussion. It’s a small, lean, but dynamic organisation, with fingers in many pies and a mandate that spans generations and geographies. This is my second spin as Director, and I’m thrilled to be back. I have no intention of repeating myself. The IMA has changed, the discussion has changed, I’ve changed. I’m looking forward to seeing how I can contribute to this new moment. I can’t wait to start.”

Mr Leonard brings over three decades of curatorial, publishing and gallery directorship experience, most recently as Chief Curator of City Gallery Wellington and editing Art News New Zealand, alongside independent projects.

Prior to his earlier stint as IMA Director, he held numerous positions in organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand, including as Curator of Contemporary Art at Auckland Art Gallery, Director of Artspace, Auckland, as well as positions at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, and the National Art Gallery, Wellington.

Mr Leonard brings to the IMA Directorship significant curatorial acumen gained across a career committed to contemporary art and culture. He curated New Zealand representation at the 2003 and 2015 Venice Biennales, the 2002 Sao Paulo Biennial, and the 1999 Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art. He is a prolific writer and editor on international contemporary art.

Ms Crowley said the IMA Board was delighted its national and international recruitment drive had attracted such a high calibre of applicants and that it created the opportunity to bring Mr Leonard back to Brisbane for this important role.

“Robert is undoubtably one of the most experienced and respected curators, and small to medium sector Directors, working in this part of the world today. He will bring new vision and experience for the context the organisation operates in today, so we are hugely excited for where Robert will take the IMA over the coming years“ she said.

Mr Leonard will commence at the IMA in January 2023.

Ms Crowley also thanked and acknowledged the hard work of interim Co-Directors Samantha Jones and Tulleah Pearce who have led the IMA since October last year.

Founded in 1975, the IMA is Australia’s oldest independent public art institution and has been at the centre of the Queensland arts ecology for 48 years. The IMA champions contemporary art, artists, and ideas, connecting local voices to global dialogues via inclusive, sustainable, and innovative institutional practice.

The IMA’s reputation for experimentation, care, and criticality is a legacy we proudly continue. Our exhibitions, events, publications, education program, touring exhibitions, and off-site projects connect us with artists and audiences from Queensland, Australia, and around the world.

Entry to the IMA is always free, offering transformative experiences that amplify voices, ignite curiosity, and inspire change through contemporary art.


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Photo courtesy Robert Leonard

The Institute of Modern Art acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land upon which the IMA now stands, the Jagera, Yuggera, Yugarapul, and Turrbal people. We offer our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the first artists of this country. In the spirit of allyship, the IMA will continue to work with First Nations people to celebrate, support, and present their immense past, present, and future contribution to artistic practice and cultural expression.