Penelope Curtis Appointed New Tate Britain Director

Posted in the 18th century in the news by Editor on November 17, 2009

Last week Tate Britain announced the appointment of Dr. Penelope Curtis as its new Director. A specialist in twentieth-century sculpture, Curtis reinforces the institution’s strong modern and contemporary interests, though, of course, the museum aims to address the history of British art from 1500 to the present (with important eighteenth-century holdings). Perhaps the small show on David Garrick’s circle, Subject/Sitter/Maker, and the more ambitious thematic exhibition, Sculpture in Painting (covering the period from 1500 to the present) provide a sense of her work within the context of an institution dedicated to sculpture. Writing in The Guardian, Charlotte Higgins addresses various challenges Curtis may face. As noted in the Tate’s official press release from 11 November 2009:

Dr. Penelope Curtis; photo from BBC News

Dr Curtis (48) has been Curator of the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds since 1999 where she has been responsible for developing an acclaimed and distinctive programme of exhibitions, presenting sculpture of all periods. Alongside this she has also overseen the development of the Leeds collections, with the acquisition of significant works by Rodin, Epstein and Calder as well as contemporary artists such as Martin Boyce and Eva Rothschild, and has built up a unique archive of sculptors’ papers.

Joining Leeds Museums & Galleries in 1994 as Head of the Henry Moore Centre for the study of sculpture, she led its transformation into the Henry Moore Institute, where research and collections have played an important role alongside the exhibitions programme. Previously she was the first Exhibitions Curator at Tate Liverpool when it opened in 1988 where she was closely involved with Tate’s British collections. Major exhibitions she has curated include Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective at Tate Liverpool in 1994 and the current exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute Sculpture in Painting.

Penelope Curtis et al, "Sculpture in Painting: The Representation of Sculpture in Painting from Titian to the Present" (2009), 144 pages, £20.00

Penelope studied Modern History at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (1979-1982) followed by a Masters and Ph.D. at the Courtauld Institute of Art (1983-89). She is an established scholar and author with particular interest in twentieth-century British art. Her publications include Sculpture 1900-1945 in the Oxford History of Art (Oxford 1999) and Patio & Pavilion: The Place of Sculpture in Modern Architecture (Ridinghouse/Getty 2007). She was on the British Council Committee for the Venice Biennale in 2008 and a member of the Turner Prize Jury in 1997.  She is currently on the Advisory Committee for the Government Art Collection and a member of Art Commissions Committee for the Imperial War Museum.

Penelope Curtis said, “I am delighted to be appointed Director of Tate Britain which has a unique remit – historic and contemporary, national and international – and look forward to exploring and expanding those areas.”

Tate Director, Sir Nicholas Serota, said, “Penelope Curtis has made an outstanding contribution to the study of sculpture and especially to our understanding of British sculpture in the twentieth century. I am delighted that she will bring her scholarship and original vision to the presentation of British art at Tate Britain.”

Curtis will take up the appointment of Director, Tate Britain in April 2010.

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