It is with great sadness and sense of mourning that the Warrnambool Art Gallery acknowledges the passing of David Hansen in January after a short illness. A consummate researcher, writer, orator and curator, David leaves a profound legacy in Australian art history and particularly in Warrnambool.
After graduating from the University of Melbourne with Honours in 1980 David was appointed Director of the Warrnambool Art Gallery at 21 years of age. Over the next seven years he brought not only a passionate energy to the gallery, but also a wit and wisdom that belied his age. During his tenure, David devoted significant energy and intellect to the realisation of a purpose built gallery suitable for an invigorated and ambitious institution, which led to the opening of the current building in 1986. His legacy is also evident in the rigour applied to the research and promotion of regional artists and his astute insight into building the foundations of a noteworthy regional collection.
Since leaving his post as the Director at Warrnambool Art Gallery, David went on to make his mark as Director of the Riddoch Art Gallery in Mount Gambier, the Australian Sculpture Triennial in Melbourne and as the Senior Curator Art at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. After some years in the private sector as Senior Researcher and Specialist for Sotheby’s Australia, he was appointed Associate Professor at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory at the Australian National University in 2014, a position he held until 2022.
David initiated, curated and managed more than 80 exhibitions and published over 150 catalogues, essays, reviews, interviews, papers, lectures and books, including Charles Rodius (2023), Dempsey’s People (2017), John Glover and the Colonial Picturesque (2003), The Fifth Australian Sculpture Triennial (1993) and The Face of Australia (1988). An advocate of regional artists and institutions and a scholar of the colonial and the contemporary, he was awarded an Australia Council Senior Fellowship (2006-07), won the Alfred Deakin Prize in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards for his essay Seeing Truganini (2010), as well as the William M.B. Berger Prize for British Art History for Dempsey’s People (2018), and was the inaugural Ross Steele AM Fellow at the State Library of New South Wales (2019).
David’s keen sense of humour and sharp wit, coupled with an energetic and singular intellect will be greatly missed across the sector. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his partner Heather B. Swann and his family.