Whitechapel Gallery has announced Gilane Tawadros as its tenth director. The announcement follows the news of Iwona Blazwick’s departure, after 20 years, in January 2022. Tawadros is currently Chief Executive of DACS, a not-for-profit visual artists rights management organisation, and will take up her post in October of this year.
‘I am overjoyed that Gilane Tawadros will lead Whitechapel Gallery in the next stage of its history,’ Dr David Dibosa, Chair of Whitechapel Gallery Trustees has said. ‘Gilane has a compelling vision and brings decades of experience to help make this a reality. She believes in the role of art in society and knows how to equip institutions to play their part.’
Tawadros has worked in the visual arts sector for over three decades, but unlike many of her predecessors, her specialism is focused on more charitable and social initiatives than on commissioning site-specific works and staging large scale exhibitions. In the 1990s, she was responsible for establishing the first education programmes at the Hayward Gallery and was a founding Director of the Institute of International Visual Arts (inVIA) from 1994 to 2005 where she championed the work of artists from different generations and cultural backgrounds. As Joint Chief Executive of Rivington Place (2002–2006) she secured £8m funding from the private and public sectors to develop the RIBA-award winning visual arts space in Shoreditch, London designed by Sir David Adjaye.
In 2009, she was appointed Chief Executive of DACS. During her tenure, she has advocated the work of 180,000 artists and estates and refocused the organisation’s mission and strategy on the innovative use of new technologies such as blockchain and artificial intelligence.
In 2014, she established the charity Art360 Foundation to support the archives of both emerging and established artists and in 2021, she launched a Manifesto for Artists in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Manifesto includes a collaborative statement of ideas and a proposal for a Smart Fund that could generate £300m annually for artists and communities across the country.
‘I am hugely excited by this opportunity. In my view, Whitechapel Gallery is one of the most pioneering institutions in London with an incredible history and a unique positioning, in East London. It’s there to be accessible, to invite new audiences to engage with art, ’ Tawadros told Apollo.