Ewan McEoin and Simone LeAmon

Ewan – Hugh D.T. Williamson Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, Design and Architecture & Simone – Hugh D.T. Williamson Curator, Contemporary Design and Architecture, National Gallery of Victoria

When it was announced in 2015 that the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) was ushering in ‘a new era’ in Contemporary Design and Architecture, the ensuing buzz was palpable. The department would be the first of its kind for an Australian art gallery and people were genuinely excited at the prospect of a major cultural institution finally filling a long-empty hole.

When it was also announced that Ewan McEoin and Simone LeAmon would be heading up the department as curators, the buzz skyrocketed even more. Being two of Australia’s leading design professionals, they make a formidable duo as the current Hugh D.T. Williamson Senior Curator, Contemporary Art, Design and Architecture and Hugh D.T. Williamson Curator, Contemporary Design and Architecture, respectively.

Their combined experience, talent and knowledge sets a high curatorial precedent and their obvious passion is contagious. The weight of expectation was undoubtedly upon their shoulders from the outset yet they continue to deliver, surpassing all hopes. Then again, we shouldn’t be surprised, McEoin and LeAmon have always been movers and shakers, dynamic to the core.

Dublin-born McEoin originally trained as an environmental scientist before working as an editor on design magazines in Ireland and Australia while still in his 20s. A role as creative director of Euroluce soon followed and he then established his own studio and started running State of Design festival for the Victorian Government. He was also creative director of the first Asia Pacific Design Triennial, becoming increasingly well known for his sharp ideas and ethical design advocacy.

LeAmon’s background is no less impressive, with the Melbourne-born designer training in both fine art and later, industrial design. She undertook a traineeship with jeweller Susan Cohn and subsequently spent many years walking the line between practising art and design.

Her travels led her to Milan where she ran her own practice designing for serial production, while still producing work for exhibition. She is highly regarded for her fine attention to detail and thoughtful approach. In 2009 she received the prestigious Rigg Design Prize and two years later, was awarded the Australia Council for the Arts Green Street Studio Residency in New York.

The two first crossed paths when McEoin featured LeAmon’s work in a magazine he was editing and then again during his time at Euroluce. It was actually Susan Cohn who introduced them to NGV director, Tony Elwood AM.

“For me, my current role is about providing an opportunity to help the general public, industry and government understand the potential of design to shape the future,” reflects McEoin. “Simone and I are trying to inspire people and we’re not just looking backwards at what’s happened and recording it, we’re generating it, and that’s what we’re ultimately interested in doing.”

Neither McEoin or LeAmon are the type of people who wait around for someone else to do it. They are hands-on, energetic and undeniably partially responsible for the renewed recognition of Australian design nationally and internationally, which is perhaps best highlighted in the announcement of The Fox: NGV Contemporary, a major new gallery for contemporary art and design.

McEoin and LeAmon have big ambitions borne from a strong love of design and genuine desire to help people produce their best work. They are proud supporters and champions of good design and will continue to be for a very, very long time to come.

This is an excerpt and the full article can be read here. Words by Leanne Amodeo.

Photography: Sean Fennessy and Eugene Hyland