Museum Director Quits Amid Fundraising Furore
30 July 2018 at 11:55 am
The director of a major Sydney museum has quit after a fundraising controversy led to calls for her resignation and that of the New South Wales arts minister.
A statement from the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) said its director Dolla Merrillees “has decided to leave MAAS”.
“Dolla has embodied MAAS’s mission to be a catalyst for creative expression and curious minds and the MAAS Trust thanks Dolla for her outstanding leadership and contribution to MAAS,” the statement said.
Some NSW state MPs last week called for the resignations of Dolla and NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin after claims a lavish fundraiser cost taxpayers almost three times what it raised.
Harwin on Monday was still arts minister after denying he misled Parliament over the matter, and allegations of a cover-up of the loss.
The black-tie dinner was billed as Sydney’s so-called answer to New York’s Met Gala.
It cost more than $388,000 to stage including event production ($256,062), design and advertising ($30,000), media coverage ($5,999), audio production ($15,000), hospitality staff ($13,515), signage ($25,000), airfares and transport ($10,123), The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The museum was forced to contribute $215,209.50 from its own budget after revenue from ticket sales and sponsorship fell way short of covering total event costs.
Much of the ticket revenue ($77,350) was directed to the Australian Fashion Fund, the vehicle launched that night to help build the museum’s fashion collection.
Of the 264 invited guests to the $1,000-a-seat fundraiser, less than half paid for their tickets, far fewer than the museum had originally conceded, documents obtained by Fairfax Media under Freedom of Information laws revealed.
A MAAS statement said the ball “was successful in achieving its objectives by introducing the Centre for Fashion to key stakeholders, building relationships with key corporate, industry and cultural partners, raising funding for the Australian Fashion Fund, increasing MAAS’ fashion collection and enhancing the reputation of MAAS as the leading public centre for fashion in Australia”.
“The MAAS Ball had 264 guests, which included 121 paid tickets, 92 complimentary tickets and 51 sponsor tickets,” the statement said.
“The event raised $78,500 of seed funding for the Australian Fashion Fund which is dedicated to funding initiatives to support and grow the Australian fashion sector. The Centre for Fashion is Australia’s first public centre for fashion excellence, providing unrivalled access to arguably the largest public fashion collection in Australia.
“MAAS is currently planning the Centre for Fashion forward program which includes exhibitions, programming and fundraising.”