Nicholas Penny to be appointed Director of the National Gallery in London

27/11/2007 — Appointment — London, National Gallery — Nicholas Penny, senior curator for sculptures at the National Gallery in Washington since 2002, will be appointed Director of the National Gallery in London as soon as the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has confirmed the name proposed by the trustees.

Nicholas Perry, 57, started his career teaching at the University of Manchester, after graduating from the Courtauld Institute of Art. From 1984 to 1989 he was curator of the department of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum, then spent twelve years at the National Gallery as curator of Renaissance paintings until 2002. It was he who had recognized in the Madonna of the Pinks, then considered a copy, an authentic Raphael. The painting was eventually acquired by the National Gallery.

A true art historian, Perry takes over as head of the foremost English museum. He is the author of several books, among them a three-volume catalogue of European sculptures at the Ashmolean Museum and the excellent The Materials of Sculpture (Yale University Press). He also co-authored Taste and the Antiques along with Francis Haskell ; he contributes regularly to the Burlington Magazine.

The previous director of the National Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith, appointed in 2002, had resigned in 2007 (he is now Chief Executive of the Royal Academy), after apparently a personal conflict with the President of the Trustees, Peter Scott, and due also perhaps to the lack of financial funding from the government for the museum. Nicholas Penny becomes director of the National Gallery at a difficult time in the establishment’s history, having failed to acquire several very important paintings recently, among them the series of Sacraments by Nicolas Poussin (see News of July 12, 2007). There is no doubt that he will continue the brilliant exhibitions policy of his predecessor.

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Didier Rykner, mardi 27 novembre 2007

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