Alison’s curatorial career began at the Art Gallery of South Australia, appointed as Curator of Prints and Drawings in 1977, where she remained until 1986. She extended the reach of this department to include Photography. A memorable year was the Gallery Centenary, 1981, where Alison curated four exhibitions, including the first history of printmaking in South Australia, Graven Images in the Promised Land (a reference to South Australia’s early image of a convict-free settlement). Her last major exhibition there was of the first of work of Edvard Munch to come to Australia, in Adelaide then touring. From the Munch Museet in Oslo, it was her first experience of negotiating a major international loan. Leaving the AGSA, a major exhibition, in Melbourne, was a history of moral censorship in visual arts in Australia, but, by then, a focus on Asia had taken over.
Curatorial work in the Asian field at the Art Gallery of South Australia had culminated in East and West; the meeting of Asian and Western art, in 1985, the first exhibition in Australia to include work from Australia within this rubric. The exhibition included historic and contemporary work from China, Japan, India, Australia and South East Asia. Two important exhibitions followed, Out of Asia, touring in Australia, and Art from Australia, touring to the National Galleries of South East Asia, both in 1990-1, and both seeing Australian art within its Asian context. Art from Australia, initiated and also managed by Alison, was the first major touring exhibition of Australian art to these venues. These led to invitations by the Queensland Art Gallery and Adelaide Festival to curate elements of the 1993, 96 and 99 Asia Pacific Triennials and the 1994 Adelaide Festival. The Adelaide exhibition was the most important show of contemporary Asian art to that time in that city. Alison’s Filipino selections in APT 1 in 1993 were the first comprehensive show of work by artists from that country in Australia and the work from Vietnam was the first chosen from that country, ever, to be represented in a major international bi or triennale. Later curatorial work focused on Asia was more aligned to invitations by Alison to other curators to take part in the Asialink Touring Exhibitions Program, thereby broadening the curatorial experience for Australians in the region. A list of Asia-related and other-focus exhibitions follows.