Alex Farquharson, the director of Nottingham Contemporary. Photograph by Peter Anderson

Alex Farquharson appointed as director of Tate Britain

Nicola Sullivan, 29.07.2015
Executive director of Nottingham Contemporary will start new job in the autumn
Tate Britain has appointed Alex Farquharson as its new director. 

The executive director of Nottingham Contemporary will replace Penelope Curtis, who will be going to Portugal to head up the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon.

Farquharson, who will take up his role at Tate Britain in the autumn, launched Nottingham Contemporary in 2009 with an exhibition of David Hockney’s work from the 1960s. The gallery was founded by Farquharson and a board of trustees.

Before joining the gallery the 45-year-old worked as a curator and co-curated the British Art Show 6 at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. He also co-curated the exhibition Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions, shown recently at the Nottingham Contemporary and currently on display at Tate Liverpool.

Pablo Bronstein, Marc Camille Chaimowicz, Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, Jeremy Deller, Gary Hume and Gillian Wearing are among the artists Farquharson has worked with on solo exhibitions.

Nicholas Serota, the director of Tate, said that Farquharson had created a programme for Nottingham Contemporary that serves local and national audiences “working closely with artists and reflecting history as well as present”.

However, some commentators on social media noted that Farquharson’s appointment means that all the national galleries in the UK are headed by men.

Tweeters also referred to the difficulties experienced by Curtis during her time as the director of Tate Britain.

Curtis led the £45m redevelopment of Tate Britain, but was criticised in the national newspapers for some of the exhibitions she oversaw, including the Sculpture Victorious exhibition.


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31.07.2015, 15:11
Thanks for this response.
To be honest, in your story it still sounds as though the major leg-work to set up NC was AF's...
Here's a good source of information about the origins of Nottingham Contemporary
31.07.2015, 12:08
It is simply not accurate to describe him as the founding director of Nottingham Contemporary. It was Deborah Dean, now in a senior post at Nottingham Castle and a talented curator and supporter of artists at all stages of their careers, who, with her team, gained the support, raised the money and commissioned the building. At some point Alex Farquharson has been 'bigged up' at the expense of a woman.

Nicola Sullivan
MA Member
Staff Writer and Researcher, Museums Association
31.07.2015, 14:58
Thanks for your comment. I referred to Farquharson as the founding director of Nottingham Contemporary because that was how he was described in a press statement I received about his new role at Tate Britain. I have checked with Nottingham Contemporary and they said he should be referred to as the gallery’s first executive director. It was also explained that he and a board of trustees founded the gallery. I have updated the story to reflect this new information.
Maurice Davies
MA Member
Partner, Museum Consultancy
29.07.2015, 19:46
As well as gender, there may be something going on around class. I have a suspicion that Alex may be just a bit posher than Penelope and that her clear, straight-talking Glasgow background might have made her an uncomfortable fit in these increasingly conservative times ( apologies, Alex, if you're in fact a horny- handed son of toil). Seriously, it'd be most illuminating to do a serious analysis of the class background of directors of major museums. There's been a few from Eton, Habs, Marlborough... Me - I left my grammar school at 16 for the local tech college, so there!