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Speculation grows that Tate’s next director will be Maria Balshaw

Will director of Manchester’s university and city art galleries be heading to London?

by Gareth Harris  |  11 January 2017
Speculation grows that Tate’s next director will be Maria Balshaw
Maria Balshaw (Image: © Johnnie Shand Kydd)
Maria Balshaw, the director of the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester and Manchester City Galleries, is set to become the new director of Tate, according to a report in The Times newspaper after speculation yesterday in the Evening Standard newspaper. Balshaw will replace Nicholas Serota who announced he was stepping down last September after 28 years in charge, and would be the first woman to hold the post.
 
But a Tate spokeswoman says that the “process is ongoing”; Balshaw declined to comment. As with all heads of UK national museums, the appointment needs to be formally approved by the Prime Minister.
 
Balshaw was appointed director of the Whitworth in 2006, and led the redevelopment of the gallery which reopened February 2015 after a £15m revamp. The expansion of the 125-year-old university gallery by Muma (McInnes Usher McKnight Architects) was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, among others. In 2015, the Whitworth won the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year award.
 
In 2011, Balshaw took on the role of director of Manchester City Galleries. During her tenure, she has presented shows by artists such as Marina Abramovic, Gerhard Richter, Cai Guo-Qiang, Gregor Schneider and Cornelia Parker. In 2014, she was appointed board member of Arts Council England.
 
Tate’s job description for the new director states that they will need “strong relationships with artists, donors and commercial partners” to grow the collection and raise the money to provide access across the Tate’s four galleries as well as through digital media.
 
Immediate tasks for the new director will include completing the fundraising for Tate Modern—£20m is now required, down £10m from the £30m needed when it reopened in June—as well as reopening Tate St Ives in March after the Cornish gallery’s expansion and refurbishment.

Last June, Serota said that the Tate’s trustees “are absolutely committed to the idea of eventually appointing someone with a curatorial background who will drive the public service ethos of the institution rather than just run it”.

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