Brian Kennedy is the Director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. He was the Director of the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra from 1997 to 2004.
Kennedy was born in Dublin and attended Clonkeen College. He received B.A. (1982), M.A. (1985) and Ph.D. (1989) degrees from University College, Dublin, where he studied both art history and history. He worked in the Irish Department of Education (1982), the European Commission, Brussels (1983), and in Ireland at the Chester Beatty Library (1983-85), Government Publications Office (1985-86), and Department of Finance (1986-89).
He was Assistant Director at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin from 1989 to 1997. He was Chair of the Irish Association of Art Historians from 1996-97. , and of the Council of Australian Art Museum Directors, 2001-3. In September 1997 he became Director of the NGA.
Kennedy expanded the traveling exhibitions and loans program throughout Australia, arranged for several major shows of Australian art abroad, increased the number of exhibitions at the museum itself and oversaw the development of an extensive multi-media site. Although he oversaw several years of the museum’s highest ever annual visitation, he discontinued the emphasis of his predecessor, Betty Churcher, on showing “blockbuster” exhibitions.
During his directorship, the NGA gained government support for improving the building and significant private donations and corporate sponsorship. Private funding supported many notable acquisitions including David Hockney’s A Bigger Grand Canyon in 1999 and Lucian Freud’s After Cézanne in 2001. Kennedy built on the established collections at the museum by acquiring the Holmgren-Spertus collection of Indonesian textiles; the Kenneth Tyler collection of editioned prints, screens, multiples and unique proofs; and the Australian Print Workshop Archive. He also introduced free admission to the gallery, except to major exhibitions. He was also notable for campaigning for the construction of a new “front” entrance to the Gallery, facing King Edward Terrace, which is now under construction.