Director Rhana Devenport farewells Art Gallery of South Australia

AGSA Brent Harris and Rhana Devenport ONZM photo by Saul SteedLater this week, after six years of artistic success and achievement, Art Gallery of South Australia Director Rhana Devenport ONZM will launch the new contemporary exhibition, Brent Harris: Surrender & Catch, marking the completion of her tenure.

On Friday 5 July, Devenport opens the major survey exhibition Brent Harris: Surrender & Catch, exploring the work of senior Melbourne-based, New-Zealand born artist Brent Harris, presented from 6 July – 20 October 2024.

The exhibition, curated by Maria Zagala, Curator of Prints, Drawings Photographs, and co-presented with TarraWarra Museum of Art, brings together over 100 paintings, drawings, and prints, traversing the artist’s practice and stylistic shifts over his career.

“What an incredible exhibition of Brent Harris and a fitting way to celebrate Rhana’s leadership at AGSA. She leaves the Gallery with an enviable reputation and a strong plan for the future. She has championed artists, led an immensely talented curatorial team and grown South Australia’s incredible collection,” said The Honourable Andrea Michaels MP, Minister for Arts.

“It’s an exhibition that has been years in the making, the impetus was a significant gift to AGSA of over fifty of the artist’s works from the private collection of James Mollison, AO (the National Gallery of Australia’s inaugural Director), and Vincent Langford,” said Director, Rhana Devenport ONZM.

“Their gift, in 2017, transformed the Gallery’s holdings of Harris’s works on paper, with many of these acquisitions are on display for the first time. Harris is an artist renowned for his remarkable paintings and prints that explore the complexities of human emotions and experiences, I am sure it will resonate and create a lasting impression.”

“In 2023 alone, we presented the work of 3148 living artists which defines AGSA as the foremost national art museum in its support of contemporary Australian artists.”

“Surrender and Catch continues this focus while drawing from the Gallery’s exceptional historical collection and includes new acquisitions and works by artists including Edvard Munch, Lucas Cranach and Colin McCahon who have long been an inspiration for Brent Harris,” said Devenport.

Four million people have visited the Gallery since Devenport was appointed Director in 2018, with AGSA programming reaching an audience of 1.8 million in 2023 alone. During the pandemic, AGSA became one of the most visited galleries in the world, making the Top 100.

“AGSA is a fearless and innovative leader in South Australia, nationally and internationally. I’m incredibly proud of the ambitious growth of our world-renowned collection and our acclaimed exhibitions program,” said Devenport.

“Exhibitions have included highly successful temporary exhibitions, three impressive Adelaide Biennials, the immensely influential Tarnanthi Festival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, and the generous and innovative Ramsay Art Prize.”

During her tenure Devenport has made significant acquisitions of and has been dedicated to the representation of female artists, a step towards balancing the art historical canon in AGSA’s collection to ensure gender diversity. Works by women artists acquired since 2018 number 1160 works of art while in 2024, she has increased the percentage of works by women artists to 75%.

Highlights of the women artists now represented in the Collection include Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Stanislava Pinchuk, Francis Upritchard, Sonia Delaunay, Aileen Agar and Barbara Longhi; with expansion of holdings by Julia Robertson, Clarice Beckett, Bessie Davidson, Dorrit Black, Vanessa Bell, and Mary Beale.

Most recently AGSA became the first Gallery in Australia to acquire a work by esteemed nineteenth century Belgium Romantic painter Marie-Adélaïde (Adèle) Kindt. South Australian artist Jess Loughlin whose work featured in the Adelaide Biennial, a site-specific glass sculpture solari in collaboration with the late Khai Liew has also been acquired.

Jess is grateful for Devenport’s commitment to championing the voices of South Australian artists and her role in promoting, nurturing and showcasing their talent.

“Rhana’s programming and acquisitions reflect the rich artistic landscape of South Australia. I am personally grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the state’s cultural vibrancy. She has left a lasting impact on the local arts community and has further solidified the gallery’s role as a vital supporter of the arts in the state,” she said.

“I would like to acknowledge the significant contribution that Rhana Devenport has made to the Biennial Ambassadors program during her tenure at AGSA,” said Adelaide Biennial Ambassador Chair, Brigitte Lane.

“With outstanding leadership, dedication and passion, she has played an integral role in the growing success of the program. Extremely professional and gracious, she will be greatly missed by the Biennial Ambassadors committee and we wish her all the very best for the future.”

Devenport leaves AGSA with a clear roadmap for the future of the 143-year-old Gallery through the new Strategic Plan and has been deeply honoured to be part of its legacy and helping to shape its future.

Devenport will be moving to Sydney and embarking on a series of new international and national projects. “I wish the new leadership, and our dedicated, inspiring and passionate staff and volunteers, every success moving forwards,” she said

“It has been an absolute privilege to work so closely with our donors and supporters of the Gallery. Most especially it is our collective work supporting artists of the past and the present and ensuring memorable connections with audiences that I am most proud of.”

Art Gallery Board Chair Sandy Verschoor thanked Devenport for her extensive contribution to the Gallery, successfully steering the Gallery through the challenges of the pandemic, strategically growing the collection and delivering memorable exhibitions and programs.

Rhana’s passion for the Gallery, its collection, and audiences has driven a profound enhancement of AGSA’s world-renowned collection and launched a series of highly successful exhibitions both in Adelaide, across Australia, and abroad. We wish her every success for the future,” said Verschoor.

First Fridays on 5 July will launch Brent Harris: Surrender and Catch as AGSA stays open late until 9pm with curated live music, talks and tours. Coinciding with First Friday is Grand Mix by Inook part of City Lights at Illuminate Adelaide.

AGSA’s Renaissance master works are brought to life by the creative minds of France’s Inook. Grand Mix takes beautiful works of art from AGSA’s forthcoming exhibition Reimagining the Renaissance, lifts them off the canvas, and uses AI technology to bring them to life.

A collective karaoke session on the forecourt, will see paintings sing and move across AGSA’s historic facade, bringing fun and lightness into the dark winter night. Grand Mix runs from 5– 21 July: 5.30–10.30pm.

A national and international search is underway to identify a new Gallery Director. In the interim Emma Fey, the current Assistant Director, Operations, will act as Director until the new Director is appointed.

For more information about the Art Gallery of South Australia, visit: for details.

Image: Brent Harris and Rhana Devenport ONZM – photo by Saul Steed