5 Oct 2017

Art for all?

BP Cultural Visions Lecture: Sandy Nairne on Tate, the Turner Prize, art theft and portraits.

Former director of the National Portrait Gallery, writer, historian and curator Sandy Nairne is to deliver a lecture at the University of Hull on Wednesday 18 October.

With a career in the art world dating back to 1972, Sandy is uniquely positioned to discuss the key issues facing the industry. At this lecture, he will argue that engagement with art in Britain has fundamentally changed over the past 40 years.

From working as a junior curator at the Tate just after the “Bricks” affair (in which the acquisition of Carl Andre’s sculpture was ridiculed in the press) to organising the Turner Prize in the mid-1990s and working on the transformation of the Tate, through to his period as director of the National Portrait Gallery, he will draw out key issues, including why art theft can also teach us important things about the value of art.

After ‘tortuous’ secret negotiations, Sandy recovered two paintings by JMW Turner, valued at £24 million, which were stolen in 1994 while on loan in Germany.

He became involved in the contemporary arts as a student, working at the Richard Demarco Gallery in Edinburgh. After graduating, he worked first at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, under Nicholas Serota, before moving to the Tate in 1976.

Four years later, he was appointed as director of exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Arts and afterwards developed a book and television series, State Of The Art, for Channel 4. From 1987, he was director of visual arts for the Arts Council of Great Britain and was subsequently awarded a Senior Research Fellowship from the Getty Grant Program, which led to the book Thinking About Exhibitions.

From 1994 to 2002 he was director of programmes at Tate, working alongside Nicholas Serota, in the creation of Tate Modern, the Centenary Development at Tate Britain, and the development of Tate’s learning, national and digital programmes.

He has said that the proudest moment of his career was at the Tate. After what have been described as tortuous secret negotiations, Sandy recovered two paintings by JMW Turner, valued at £24 million, which were stolen in 1994 while on loan in Germany. He went on to write his account of his search, with an incredible tale of complex investigations and underworld characters.

Sandy’s career and achievements in the cultural sector are astounding and his passion, vision and sheer determination is inspiring.
– Fran Hegyi, Hull 2017

He was director of the National Portrait Gallery for 12 years. During his tenure, visitor numbers rose to more than two million. Important acquisitions were made, and sell-out exhibitions organised, including the Lucian Freud exhibition, David Hockney portraits in 2006 and exhibitions of photographs by Annie Leibovitz and David Bailey, selected by the photographer himself from his half-century of archives. The annual BP Portrait Award and the photographic portrait prize became even more successful in this period. He handed over the reins to Dr Nicholas Cullinan in February 2015 at the end of a tenure described as “exemplary”.

Since then, Sandy has continued his writing and lecturing. He is chair of Clore Leadership Programme, chairs the St Paul’s Cathedral Fabric Advisory Committee and the Art Group for Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres, and is a trustee of the National Trust.

Fran Hegyi, executive director at Hull 2017, said: “Sandy’s career and achievements in the cultural sector are astounding and his passion, vision and sheer determination is inspiring. This event is certainly befitting for what continues to be an incredible year in Hull and we are delighted to welcome such a figurehead of the art world to share his thoughts.”

The BP Cultural Visions Lecture Series offers the opportunity to listen to the challenges and the obstacles faced by some of the UK’s leading creative visionaries, how this shaped them into the people they are today and to be part of the conversation around a cultural vision for the future. A collaboration between BP and the University of Hull, it is designed to spark cultural conversation with monthly lectures throughout 2017.

This event will take place at 6.30pm on Wednesday 18 October in Middleton Hall at the University of Hull as part of the BP Cultural Visions Lecture Series.  Tickets are available to book online.


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