The Hong Kong-based philanthropist and entrepreneur Yana Peel has been appointed chief executive of the Serpentine Galleries in London. The high-profile institution's trustees took the unusual decision to choose a fellow trustee to fill the new post. Julia Peyton-Jones, who put the institution on the international map, is stepping down as co-director this month after 25 years at the helm.
Peel will work in partnership with Hans Ulrich Obrist who has been at the Serpentine since 2006 as co-director of exhibitions and programmes. He takes on the new role of artistic director.
Peel, who was born in St Petersburg and studied in Montreal and London, began her career at Goldman Sachs. She co-founded the philanthropic organisation the Outset Contemporary Art Fund in 2003. In 2009, she co-founded Intelligence Squared Asia, an offshoot of the high-profile company that organises debates and discussions.
Peel sits on numerous boards, including the Tate Executive Council, the British Fashion Council and the V-A-C Foundation Moscow, and is co-chair of the Hong Kong-based contemporary art space Para Site. On her twitter page, she describes herself as “activist/addict/agitator. techno-optimist. friend of fashion”.
Hans Ulrich Obrist says in a statement: “I am looking forward to working in partnership with Yana Peel and embarking on an exciting new chapter in the history of the Serpentine. I am totally committed to continuing to make the Serpentine the place where artists most want to work and to be able to present our programme in ever new formats and to wider audiences.”
During Peyton-Jones’s tenure, the original Serpentine Gallery, which was joined in 2013 by the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, has become one of London’s top contemporary art institutions thanks to an ambitious programme of free exhibitions by artists including Ellsworth Kelly, Gerhard Richter, Jeff Koons and Marina Abramovic. Little of this would have been possible but for Peyton-Jones’s formidable success as a fundraiser.
The Serpentine has also announced the appointment of two new trustees: the London-based artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Mike Sherwood, the vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs.