The National Gallery of Victoria. Photo: Wikipedia.

National Gallery of Victoria Drops Security Firm Accused of Human Rights Abuses

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) announced on February 28 that it will no longer employ Wilson Security to provide security services for the museum, Steph Harmon reports in The Guardian. The company has come under fire after two thousand incident reports that detailed the mistreatment and abuse of refugees and asylum seekers at Australia’s offshore detention centers were leaked in 2016. Following the allegations, which include the sexual assault of women and children, the firm has been targeted by artists, activists, and human rights advocates.

In August 2017, the Artists’ Committee—a group of Melbourne-based artists and arts professionals—published an open letter urging the NGV to sever ties with Wilson Security. It was signed by more than 1,500 people. The group had also staged a number of demonstrations, including blockading the gallery’s entrance, adding red dye to the museum’s outdoor water feature, and covering Pablo Picasso’s Weeping Woman with a black cloth featuring the firm’s logo.

The protests continued after the center’s contract with the immigration centers on Nauru and Manus Island expired on October 2017. Last December, Candice Breitz and a number of other artists who were being featured in the inaugural National Gallery of Victoria Triennial renamed their works Wilson Must Go.

In a Facebook post published on December 12, 2017 that commented on the action, Breitz wrote: “The horrific effects of indefinite mandatory detention are well-documented. The allegations against Wilson Security since the commencement of their contracts on Manus Island and Nauru in 2012 are extensive and disturbing. While I am grateful for the immense support I have received from the NGV, it would be morally remiss, in light of the above knowledge, for me to remain silent in the context of the current conversation that is taking place around the Australian government’s ongoing and systematic abuse of refugees.”

Wilson Security was first contracted by the gallery in July 2017. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the gallery said: “Wilson Security was the NGV’s interim security service provider while we were in a Victorian government procurement process to secure a long-term security services provider. We have commenced the short transition to our new provider.” According to the Artists’ Committee, SecureCorp was tapped for the job.