Penelope Curtis

Tate Britain director to leave for new role in Portugal

Simon Stephens, 08.04.2015
Penelope Curtis experienced mixed fortunes since joining Tate in 2010
Penelope Curtis is to leave her role as the director of Tate Britain to lead the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, Portugal.

Curtis has experienced mixed fortunes since joining Tate Britain in 2010. She led the £45m redevelopment of the gallery but was criticised in the national newspapers for some of the exhibitions she oversaw, including the recent Sculpture Victorious exhibition.

And last year, Sunday Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak said Curtis should leave the gallery, arguing that she had been a “disaster”.

But Curtis also had her supporters, such as the Telegraph’s Richard Dorment, who wrote in 2014 that “Curtis has already done more to change Tate Britain for the better than any director since the great Sir Nicholas Serota himself”.

According to figures from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, visitor figures at Tate Britain were 1.6m in 2010-11, falling to 1.46m the following year and 1.39m in 2013-14. For the first 11 months of 2014-15, there were 1.27m visits to the gallery.

Curtis will take up her new role in the autumn. She said: “I look forward to working in Portugal and working with a strong institution which is looking for change. I want to keep all that is good about the museum, which I admire deeply, while developing ways in which it can make more of its context and position, especially in relation to the neighbouring Modern Art Centre, and more widely.”

Curtis joined Tate Britain from the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds where she had worked since 1999. She was also the first exhibitions curator at Tate Liverpool when it opened in 1988.


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MA Member
16.04.2015, 09:04
I know that Penelope Curtis doesn't seem to be the most 'people-oriented' type of person, but that shouldn't matter as much as her doing good exhibitions. I've liked what she has done - I think she has sometimes not always quite pulled off what she's attempted curatorially, but she's been quite brave and taken risks, and done interesting work, and should be lauded for that. Sadly, I think that there probably is some sexism at work here - if she had been a man I'm sure there would have been far less criticism of her.
Oliver Green
MA Member
14.04.2015, 17:40
It's not 'mixed fortune' that Curtis has suffered at Tate, but verbal abuse and pretty unpleasant sexism from one or two loud male art critics who should know better. It's a childish way to behave, like the art world version of Clarkson on Top Gear, but I suppose this sort of macho jousting with words goes right back to Ruskin and Whistler's legal spat in the 19th century.
The idea that a museum or gallery's success (or failure) is all about a heroic (or failed) director is absurd anyway. Neil MacGregor has done a fantastic job at the BM but I'm sure he's a bit embarrassed by some of the over the top media plaudits he has had in the last few days since announcing his departure. He'd be the first to give due credit to others, male or female, and recognise their contribution.
09.04.2015, 12:07
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