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Art for all? Tate, the turner prize, art theft and portraits

Release date:
13 October 2017
On Wednesday 18 October, Sandy Nairne, writer, historian, curator and former Director of the National Portrait Gallery, will deliver a lecture at the University of Hull, arguing that engagement with art in Britain has fundamentally changed over the past forty 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-90s 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.


With a career in the arts dating back to 1972, Sandy Nairne has been a central figure in the art world. 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 £24million, 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.


He was Director of the National Portrait Gallery for 12 years. During his tenure, visitor numbers rose to over 2m, 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 with 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 his 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. Featuring varied and prominent speakers, this is a fresh space to investigate and celebrate innovation and passion. A collaboration between bp and the University of Hull, it is designed to spark cultural conversation with monthly lectures throughout 2017.


The 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.


Book online at: hull2017.co.uk/culturalvisions and culturenet.co.uk


For media enquiries, please contact Sian Alexander in the University of Hull press office on 01482 462193 or s.alexander@hull.ac.uk

Notes to editors

BP support for UK Arts & Culture

In the UK, BP is a major supporter of the arts with a programme that spans over 50 years. BP’s investment in long term partnerships with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House, and the Royal Shakespeare Company represent one of the most significant long-term corporate investments in UK arts and culture www.bp.com/arts.


BP is a global energy company with wide reach across the world’s energy system. The energy we produce serves to power economic growth and lift people out of poverty. In the future, the way heat, light and mobility are delivered will change. We aim to anchor our business in these changing patterns of demand, rather than in the quest for supply. We have a real contribution to make the world’s ambition of a low carbon future. We have operations in Europe, North and South America, Australasia, Asia and Africa, and employ around 75,000 people.


BP Hull is home to some of BP’s most innovative operations. We own and operate a chemical manufacturing facility which is the largest producer of acetic acid and acetic anhydride in Europe. BP is at the forefront of research and technology in the petrochemicals field, and Hull is one of our principle global centres for petrochemicals research and technology. In addition, Hull hosts part of BP’s Centre of Expertise in Applied Chemistry and Physics (AC&P). Earlier this year, we marked our 50thanniversary at BP Hull.  


Fast facts:

  • 74,500 employees
  • 72 countries
  • 17,810 million boe proved reserves
  • 18,000 retail sites
  •  6,000+ marine voyages completed by BP-operated and chartered vessels
  • $115 million profit attributable to BP shareholders
  • 3.3 million boepd production
  • $2.6 billion underlying replacement cost profit
  • 109% group proved reserves replacement ratio


University of Hull

Creativity lives and breathes at the University of Hull – always has done, always will.


As a catalyst for creativity we are a keen supporter of arts and culture within our community and beyond – and now, as a principal partner of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 we are delighted to be an integral part of the celebrations.


The University of Hull is playing a significant role in producing and hosting some of the spectacular events that form part of the Hull 2017 programme including, in the first few months alone, an exhibition of drawings from some of art’s prominent masters from Matisse to Michelangelo; a film festival dedicated to Oscar-winning Director Minghella who kick-started his career here; and an exhibition of BP Portrait Award Commissions from the National Portrait Gallery featuring famous faces from Paul Smith to J.K. Rowling. Some of this activity is being held in our newly relaunched Middleton Hall which, following a £9.5million redevelopment, is now a world-class concert and arts venue.


University of Hull students, graduates and staff are at the heart of the programming with conferences, concerts and festivals showcasing their talent. In addition, as the exclusive academic partner we are an official partner in creativity and in helping to pave the way for future generations.


For further information visit www.hull.ac.uk


Hull UK City of Culture 2017

Hull UK City of Culture 2017 is a 365 day programme of cultural events and creativity inspired by the city and told to the world. Hull secured the title of UK City of Culture 2017 in November 2013. It is only the second city to hold the title and the first in England. Divided into four seasons, this nationally significant event draws on the distinctive spirit of the city and the artists, writers, directors, musicians, revolutionaries and thinkers that have made such a significant contribution to the development of art and ideas.


The Culture Company was set up to deliver the Hull 2017 programme and is an independent organisation with charitable status. It has raised £32 million, with over 70 partners supporting the project, including public bodies, trusts and foundations and local and national businesses.


Key contributions are coming from: Host City – Hull City Council; Principal Partners - Arts Council England, BBC, Big Lottery Fund, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Heritage Lottery Fund, KCOM, KWL, Spirit of 2012, Yorkshire Water and the University of Hull; Major Partners –Associated British Ports, Arco, BP, the British Council, British Film Institute, Green Port Hull, Hull Clinical Commissioning Group, MKM Building Supplies, P&O Ferries, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Sewell Group, Siemens, Smith & Nephew and Wykeland Group. The National Lottery has contributed more than £10m of this funding, making it the largest single funding body for Hull 2017.


For information go to www.hull2017.co.uk.


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