Maria Balshaw appointed Tate Director



Tate has announced that Maria Balshaw, currently Director of the Whitworth (University of Manchester) and Manchester City Galleries, and Director of Culture for Manchester City Council, has been appointed the new Director of Tate. 

The appointment by the gallery’s Board of Trustees has been approved by the Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Theresa May MP. The appointment of the gallery’s ninth director follows the decision by its current Director, Nicholas Serota, to take up the part-time role of Chairman of Arts Council England on 1 February 2017. Maria Balshaw will take up her new post on 1 June 2017. She is the first woman to be appointed to the role.

Maria began her career in academia before working for Arts Council England in Birmingham and then becoming Director of the Whitworth in 2006. She quickly became a key figure in the transformation of Manchester’s cultural sector, curating radical and popular programmes and expanding the city’s art collections. In recent years she spearheaded the Whitworth’s £17m transformation, which won Museum of the Year and was nominated for the Stirling Prize, and has been working towards the launch of Factory, a new arts venue and permanent home for Manchester International Festival. She was awarded a CBE for services to the arts in 2015.

Lord Browne, Chairman of the Trustees of Tate, said:

‘On behalf of the Trustees I am delighted to announce the appointment of Maria Balshaw as Tate’s new Director. The Trustees and I know that Maria has the vision, drive and stature to lead Tate into its next phase of development. We enthusiastically look forward to working with her as she does so.’

Maria Balshaw said:

‘I am honoured to be asked by the Trustees of Tate to become the new Director. Under Nicholas Serota’s leadership, Tate has changed forever how we all think about art and artists and has made visual art a central part of a vibrant cultural life in the UK. I am tremendously excited to be leading Tate in the next chapter of its life. I look forward to developing Tate’s reputation as the most artistically adventurous and culturally inclusive gallery in the world.’


Maria Balshaw (46) is Director of the Whitworth (University of Manchester) and Manchester City Galleries, and Director of Culture for Manchester City Council. She has been Director of the Whitworth since June 2006 and took on the role of Director of Manchester City Galleries in 2011. Her dual Directorship represents a unique partnership between the University of Manchester and Manchester City Council, bringing the two institutions and Manchester’s historic and contemporary art collections into complementary alliance for the first time. She led a £17 million capital campaign, supported by the University of Manchester, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and many other public and private donors, to transform the Whitworth. The new Whitworth, realised by architects MUMA, won numerous awards, including a Stirling Prize nomination; the gallery also won Museum of the Year in 2015, its first year of operation.

Her tenure at the Whitworth and at Manchester Art Gallery has seen critical acclaim for her bold and challenging programme, particularly in terms of her approach to bringing the historic collections and contemporary art together as part of a dialogue about the relevance of art for society today. Exhibitions like Jeremy Deller’s All That Is Solid Melts Into Air at Manchester Art Gallery and Blake’s Shadow and The Land Between Us at the Whitworth demonstrated the capacity for popular and radical exhibitions to bring new audiences to the galleries. She has successfully made the case that the historic collections of these major regional galleries should be a source of contemporary excitement and relevance for the people of Manchester.

She has consistently championed women artists, commissioning exhibitions from major figures such as Lynn Hershman Leeson, Mary Kelly, Joana Vasconcelos, Marina Abramovic, Jane and Louise Wilson, Elizabeth Price and, for the reopening of the Whitworth, a ground-breaking mid-career show by Cornelia Parker. She has ensured that each of these career-defining exhibitions has also resulted in acquisitions that ensure the presence of these artists is retained permanently in Manchester. She has a career-long interest in alternative narratives of modernism and has pursued curatorial projects that expand our understanding of the global diversity of contemporary practice. This has included developing a major multi-site exhibition programme, called We Face Forward, of art from West Africa, for the Cultural Olympiad; an exploration of the visual legacies of slavery with Trade and Empire, presented to coincide with the bi-centenary of the abolition of British slavery; and consistent attention to artists from South Asia, including a celebrated 65-hour drawing and performance installation in 2013 by Indian artist Nikhil Chopra, the presentation of Subodh Gupta’s work in the grounds of the Whitworth and video and textile work by Aisha Khalid. Here too exhibitions have led to acquisitions such that the Manchester’s collections are now much more diverse.

Visit Tate website for more information.

Source: Tate. Image credit: The Whitworth.

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