Today the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria run red as artists protest the gallery’s commercial relationship with Wilson Security, which provides security services to both the gallery and Australia’s offshore detention facilities on Manus Island and Nauru. The action highlights the extensive, violent human rights abuses carried out by Wilson Security during their contract with the immigration detention industry.

The unsettling intervention, which saw red dye seep into the water of the gallery’s famous moat and water wall, comes just a week after a previous unsanctioned intervention by artists at the gallery. Last Friday, artists shrouded Picasso’s Weeping Woman, one of the museum’s most prized artworks, with a black veil, in solidarity with those detained and abused by Wilson Security.

“Wilson is notorious for overseeing, perpetrating and attempting to cover up years of abuse against refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru,” said artist, Nina Ross. “Why would the NGV, a trusted cultural institution, continue to work with them?”

“This is a national crisis. This is an extraordinary situation. People are dying and suffering at the hands of Wilson and the Australian Government – in the name of all Australians. We won’t stand for it,” said artist and protester Lachlan Anthony. “We urgently need the National Gallery of Victoria to show moral leadership here.”

The artists – who were keen to reassure the public, gallery staff and visitors that the dye was perfectly safe and impermanent – are determined to continue such interventions in order to pressure the state Gallery into ending their commercial relationship with companies connected to Australia’s mandatory offshore detention policy.

Last week artists shrouded Picasso’s Weeping Woman in protest against Wilson Security at the NGV. Photo: Tatjana Plitt

Last week artists shrouded Picasso’s Weeping Woman in protest against Wilson Security at the NGV. Photo: Tatjana Plitt


Wilson Security’s current interim contract at the NGV was appointed through the Victorian security services procurement panel, the same panel that will be appointing a long-term security provider for the NGV and other state agencies later this year.

The Artists’ Committee understands that the NGV is not mandated to follow state procurement processes.

 While Wilson’s contract on Manus Island and Nauru ends at the end of October, and the Manus prison is currently being shut down, the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island have reported an increasingly dire situation, facing violent opposition in the township, many suffering from deteriorating mental health, and a withdrawal of protection from Australian and local officials.

Independent investigations and reports have revealed the extent of Wilson Security’s abuses on Manus Island and Nauru, including violent and sexual crimes against children, men and women, and attempts to cover up these abuses and failings.

The Artists’ Committee believes that artistic and creative work fundamentally relies on human freedom, and find it impossible to support institutions that support illegal detainment.

In August, over 1500 artists, arts workers, Gallery members and arts lovers signed a letter to the NGV urging them to terminate their contract with Wilson Security. The response from the NGV has been evasive and noncommittal.

Last Friday, twenty signatories covered Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’ in a cloth featuring Wilson’s logo and blocked security staff from removing it for about an hour before leaving peacefully, leaving the painting covered. The artists chose the painting, they said, for its moving and universal portrayal of human suffering.

The Artists’ Committee is an informal association of sculptors, filmmakers, photographers, curators, writers, theatre makers, painters and designers, that makes collaborative public work around the intersection of money, ethics and culture.

The dye used today is specially formulated for pools and water features and filters out in three to five days. It is non-toxic, non-staining and non-corrosive.

#ArtistsAgainstAbuse #BoycottWilson #NGV

More information:
Nina Ross