Sir James Wallace naming re-traumatises survivor

Sir James Wallace

Annie Hill, an artist and advocate for sexual abuse survivors, wants her artwork removed from the prestigious Wallace Collection after its founder, Sir James Wallace, was found guilty of indecently assaulting three men.

Hill is a survivor of sexual abuse by Fr Michael Shirres and told RNZ she has been re-traumatised by Wallace’s naming.

In the 1980s, Hill sold her painting for placement in Wallace’s collection.

“It was a time in my life where I felt pretty happy about myself, I’d always pointed to that as evidence that once I had a life that wasn’t defined by survivor culture,” she told RNZ.

However, after Wallace’s name suppression was lifted last week, Hill says she is deeply distressed and is again being re-traumatised.

“I was genuinely distraught,” she said, “and I am still experiencing the effects of being re-traumatised and triggered.”

She told RNZ that her time of feeling happy about herself has been “totally taken away,” and she no longer wishes to be associated with him or his collection.

Hill’s request to have her art removed comes as she believes her association with the collection, which bears Wallace’s name, conflicts with her advocacy work and personal experiences.

She condemns Wallace’s actions as “horrible and disgusting” and says the Trust’s management, which oversees the Wallace Collection, needs to communicate with artists and offer them the option to remove their artworks if they so choose.

“I don’t think it should be my job to figure out how to remove myself from their institutionalised exhibition; it’s their job to look after me as a survivor who no longer wants to be part of it,” said Hill.

In 2021, the trustees of the James Wallace Arts Trust established a new charitable organisation called The Arts House Trust.

The Arts House Trust say they are no longer associated with Sir James Wallace and his Trust.

The Arts House Trust, the entity responsible for operating the Pah Homestead where the Wallace Collection resides, confirmed to RNZ that they had reached out to Hill to discuss her request.

But Hill said supporting Wallace’s victims would take more than gestures.

“It would be good to suggest that people ask [the victims] what they need and consider that this in itself won’t end their issues,” she said.

The Arts House Trust says will continue to engage in discussions with Hill and assess the implications of her request as the institution seeks to uphold its commitment to contemporary art and the welfare of its associated artists.

Sir James Wallace, 85, was recently publicly named following the lifting of his name suppression in the Supreme Court.

The prominent businessman was found guilty of indecently assaulting three young men in separate incidents that occurred in the early 2000s, 2008 and 2016.


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