Whitechapel Gallery appoints new director - Museums Association

Whitechapel Gallery appoints new director

Gilane Tawadros takes the reins in October
Leadership Moves
Gilane Tawadros will leave her role as CEO of DACS to become director of the Whitechapel Gallery, London, this October Brian Benson

The Whitechapel Gallery in east London has appointed Gilane Tawadros as its new director, who will take up the post this October.

Tawadros will be the gallery’s 10th director and follows Iwona Blazwick, who decided to step down after 20 years in April 2022. Blazwick is now an independent curator working on a wide range of international projects.

Tawadros is currently chief executive of DACS, the Design and Artists Copyright Society, a not-for-profit visual artists rights management organisation. In post since 2009, she has been an ambassador and advocate on behalf of 180,000 artists and estates, engaging politicians, policy makers and the wider public in a deeper understanding of the value of artists to British culture and society. She has developed a new vision, mission and strategy for the organisation, pioneering the use of new technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence for the benefit of artists, and developing a global digital platform for contemporary and modern artists.

An art historian by training, she launched a Manifesto for Artists in 2021, which included a collaborative statement of ideas and key policy changes that financially support visual artists beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. Crowdsourced from artists’ responses to their recent experiences, the manifesto includes a proposal for a Smart Fund that could generate £300m annually for artists and communities across the country.

Prior to her work at DACS, she was founding director (1994-2005) of the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva), London, where she championed the work of British and international artists of different generations and cultural backgrounds and mapped out the agenda for a new institution that took risks and broke with conventional models.


As joint chief executive of Rivington Place (2002-06) she secured £8m funding from the private and public sectors to develop a landmark, Riba-award winning visual arts space in Shoreditch, London designed by the celebrated architect David Adjaye.

She is a founding trustee and chair of the Stuart Hall Foundation (2015-present), an organisation committed to public education, addressing urgent questions of race and inequality in culture and society through its public programme and by providing opportunities for activism and intellectual inquiry among artists, scholars, and activists from under-represented groups.

Tawadros set up the Art360 Foundation charity in 2014, which is dedicated to supporting the archives and legacies of both emerging and established artists for the benefit of future generations and has attracted substantial funding.

She has curated numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally, written and lectured extensively on contemporary art, and written and edited several books, from Sonia Boyce: Talking in Tongues (1995), to The New Economy of Art (2014). She has a particular interest in the work of Black British women artists.

David Dibosa, chair of Whitechapel Gallery trustees, said: “I am overjoyed that Gilane Tawadros will lead Whitechapel Gallery in the next stage of its history. Gilane has a compelling vision and brings decades of experience to help make this a reality.”

Gilane Tawadros said: “As a passionate advocate for the critical value of art and artists to everyone in society, I am thrilled to have this opportunity to lead one of the world’s most pioneering cultural institutions. I look forward to working in close collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery’s board and team, artists, and communities in east London, across the country and the globe, to shape a future for the gallery that is bravely responsive to the pressing socio-political and environmental context of our time. Cultural diversity, access and inclusivity are abiding concerns for me that underpin a desire to make contemporary art and the art gallery central to all our lives.”

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