The new Victorian minister for creative industries, Steve Dimopoulos, announced a nine-member board for Melbourne Arts Precinct Corporation (MAP Co) – the entity spearheading the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation project.

The minister appointed as deputy chair Peter Konidaris, a lead partner for PwC’s Victorian Government practice. The Greek Australian has garnered significant kudos over the last 20 years, as an adviser on infrastructure, tax and reform initiatives for local, national and international clients, and of course, government.

Alongside eight other board members, Mr Konidaris will oversee the precinct revamp which includes The Fox: NGV Contemporary, along with extensive refurbishment of Arts Centre Melbourne’s State Theatre and the addition of new cafes, restaurants, and 18,000 square metres of new green public space.

Mr Konidaris has been leading government engagement with many of Melbourne’s cultural institution over the last six years via PwC, the innovation partner of Arts Centre Melbourne. Having worn multiple hats as part of corporate, government-related boards and organisations, Mr Konidaris has elevated responsibility management from the micro-level to a macro-level, contributing years of experience to a governance role.

Archive image of Peter Konidaris receiving the HACCI Professional Excellence Award presented by Salary Masters back in 2019. Photo: Neos Kosmos/Supplied

“Over the years we have collaborated with the Australian ballet, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on several different initiatives and we are also a supporter of the National Gallery of Victoria,” Mr Konidaris told Neos Kosmos.

“PwC is based in Southbank and obviously all these cultural institutions are in our neighbourhood. It’s important to us to be a positive member contributing to our local community.”

Mr Konidaris’ role revolves around commercial insights and relationship management across Melbourne.

“An appointment like this, is not an executive role, however, the level of discernment is heavier, when it comes to understanding of several market trends and issues, key relationships across the precinct, as the are so many different organisations involved.

“You have the Arts Centre you’ve got Fed Square, NGV, but you’ve also got tenants, resident companies that use the facilities. The ballet, the opera, they’re all disrupted by this.”

There is an interconnection of multiple stakeholders including the council, government and private sponsors.

An aerial photo of the Southern side of Melbourne Arts Precinct. All photos: of Peter Konidaris

“Everyone is deeply invested in this but we have a wonderful degree of camaraderie,” MAP Co’s deputy chair stressed. Mr Konidaris added that coming through COVID-19 the project has become more important in terms of solidifying future prosperity.

The board is dreaming big. Another Greek Australian, Angelo Candalepas, who led the multidisciplinary consortium that tended to the design of the contemporary gallery will add his magic touch to the project.

“The aspirations for it, especially after the pandemic, are major. We hope and desire, over the long-term, to create an arts and cultural precinct which will the best in the Asia Pacific region,” Mr Konidaris told Neos Kosmos.

“We’ve seen the impact the National Arts Gallery of Victoria has had on its own, and we want to create a destination for international tourists, for them to stay in Melbourne and explore the precinct.”

“Explore the sports precincts, explore our gardens, explore the CBD. We want it to be a massive pole of attraction for international visitors, but also visitors from interstate. We would like this also to be a hub for people that live in Melbourne,” he said.

Mr Konidaris acknowledges that life-force has been reinjected into the city centre in 2022 but says we need to revitalise both normalcy and hope in people as well as the economy.

“We need to go back in and reopen spaces with new ideas”.

The Melbourne Arts Precinct plan. All photos: of Peter Konidaris

“The main difference between Sydney and Melbourne was that Melbourne was a city to live in and Sydney was a city were people would go to work in. A lot of people, left the city. This is an opportunity to bring people back to the city.”

MAP Co’s aim is to make the Southbank and CBD Precinct a key destination, where the city’s major art and culture institutions share space.

“We are going to spend over $1bn on a new contemporary gallery, the NGV Fox. An incredible contribution has also been made by the private families of Melbourne for example a $100 million donation by the Fox family, there’s something really ‘Melbourne’ about it, about public citizens contributing to the fabric and success of our city.”

Melbourne is culturally diverse as one in every two people now has one parent at least born overseas so cultural activities are even more relevant.

“You don’t need to necessarily go into a gallery. You don’t need to go to the Art Centre; the Precinct, the open spaces will be vibrant,” Mr Konidaris told Neos Kosmos.

There will be great restaurants, great entertainment, beautiful spaces for people to enjoy the common public realm as we join up with FedSquare creating a hyper-connected experience from NGV I (International) to the end of Fed Square which will be called NGV A (Australia).”

“Melbourne is Australia’s multicultural cauldron; we want the precinct to be a destination in and of itself. It’s a really exciting project for Melbournians, Victorians, Australians, and international visitors. A great vision of the current government.”

NGV Contemporary. Photo: of Peter Konidaris