A Guggenheim exhibition in Melbourne next month would highlight a multimilliondollar missedopportunity for Geelong, a leading arts figure said yesterday.
Jim Cousins, who led a failed Geelong bid for a Guggenheim museum, said the city could have hosted the exhibition and its crowds totalling up to a million art patrons, now bound for Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria.
An exhibition would have been part of the process of establishing a Guggenheim in Geelong, he said.
“Think of the hotel beds filled and the people it would have brought to the city,” Mr Cousins said.
“It would have been a huge drawcard for Geelong.”
The national gallery announced yesterday it would host the Guggenheim’s 1940s to Now exhibition from June 30 to October.
The Independent revealed last year that Melbourne was in line for a Guggenheim exhibition.
Geelong’s push from 1998 to 2003 for a Guggenheim collapsed when council withdrew its support amid ongoing public criticism of the bid.
Mr Cousins blamed “smalltown cringe” in Geelong for the failure.
“It was an example of the negative elements you get in Geelong,” he said.
“It was a very good idea at the time, probably ahead of its time.
“Geelong is out of the question now – I wouldn’t want to go through that pain again.”
Mr Cousins, a former National Gallery of Victoria chairman, said critics had wrongly feared a Guggenheim would have cost the city too much to operate.
“People didn’t understand that the museums run as private enterprises,” he said.
Mr Cousins said he was still in regular contact with Guggenheim operators and believed they were working with other major cities in Australia about setting up museums.
“There have been talks with Perth, Darwin and Alice Springs,” he said.
“Geelong has missed it but I’m not crying over spilt milk. It’s dead and gone here.
“Geelong should get on and do something else – the city has to be forward thinking and plan for the future.”
Mr Cousins encouraged Geelong residents to visit the Melbourne exhibition.
“It would be a great experience for them to see what the Guggenheim actually does.”
Guggenheim museums operate in several countries, each featuring striking architectural design and contemporary art exhibitions.