Bob Sredersas’ legacy at Wollongong Art gallery is being reviewed. Picture: file.

Janine Graham
Illawarra Mercury
August 28, 2022

A former director of Wollongong Art Gallery has called for the institution to dissolve the controversial Bob Sredersas collection and send a clear message to the global art world.

Earlier this year it was revealed Bronius “Bob” Sredersas, an art benefactor who bequeathed dozens of works to the Wollongong gallery before he died in 1982, served in the Nazi Party’s security service.

The gallery has since taken a number of steps to redress the Sredersas’ legacy.

A name plaque has been removed as has any printed material referencing the man and his gift are not displayed in the gallery while its website has been updated to educate visitors on his past.

“We are still working through several other actions, such as updating the artworks in the gallery’s online catalogue appropriately, as well as scoping education opportunities and events for our community, with ongoing advice and support from the Sydney Jewish Museum and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies,” a Wollongong City Council spokesperson said.

More must be done, says Peter O’Neill OAM, who served as the gallery director for 15 years from 1992.

“The collection must be dissolved,” Mr O’Neill said.

“It would allow the works to be put back into the Australian market so the artists are not tainted by this incident.

“The art world is used to dealing with issues of provenance,” he said. “Works acquired can come from dubious sources – these issues create precedents for others.

“Now is the time for the gallery and the council to take a leadership position.”

After details of Sredersas’ ugly past were revealed the council joined forces with the Sydney Jewish Museum, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and a Holocaust scholar, Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet, to investigate Sredersas’ pre-Wollongong life.

That relationship is ongoing, the council spokesperson said.

“Preliminary advice from these institutions has not included dissolving the collection.

“Several ideas about using the gift and its history as a platform for educative purposes for both our local community and visitors are being explored,” they said.

“This includes holding a public lecture, as well as hosting Courage to Care, an exhibition about the impacts of the Holocaust, in the Gallery’s 2023 exhibition program.

“A decision regarding the collection will be made when all relevant advice has been provided and considered.”

Mr O’Neill also expressed concerns about the advice the council was receiving from a “museum-centric” point-of-view.

“The Sredersas issue needs to be addressed from a museological perspective and that warrants voices from outside the council to press for that.”