Barry Pearce was born in 1944 in Adelaide, where he was educated, and began his art museum career at the Art Gallery of South Australia. From 1969 he lived in London, where he studied at the British Museum's Department of Prints and Drawings as a Harold Wright Scholar. On his return to Australia in 1975 he was appointed the first Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Art Gallery of South Australia; two years later he became Curator of Paintings at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. In 1978 he was appointed Curator of Australian Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and later became Head Curator of Australian Art.
Over three decades there he has curated many exhibitions, including major retrospectives of the work of Sali Herman, Elioth Gruner, John Passmore, Donald Friend, Arthur Boyd, Brett Whiteley, Margaret Olley, Charles Conder, Sidney Nolan and Justin O'Brien, among others, each accompanied by publications which remain definitive texts in their field. He has written many other essays on aspects of Australian art for magazines, journals and catalogues, has lectured extensively, and has acted as an ambassador of Australian art in connection with various international projects.
Barry Pearce's most recent books with The Beagle Press are a monograph on Michael Johnson, a new edition of his book on Jeffrey Smart, and a new book on Margaret Olley. He retired from the Art Gallery of New South Wales in early 2011 but remains affiliated as its inaugural Emeritus Curator of Australian Art.show more