Gilane Tawadros, the chief executive of Dacs (the Design and Artists Copyright Society), has been appointed the director of the Whitechapel Gallery in East London, The Art Newspaper reported.
She will become one of the few women of colour to lead a big arts institution in the UK when she takes up the new post in October, replacing Iwona Blazwick – who steps down after more than 20 years in the role.
In a statement that was quoted in The Art Newspaper, Tawadros says she will work with the institution’s board and team, along with artists and local communities, to “shape a future for the gallery that is bravely responsive to the pressing socio-political and environmental context of our time”. Her vision for the pivotal London institution, which opened in 1901, will be scrutinised once she takes up the post in October. David Dibosa, the chair of Whitechapel Gallery trustees, says in a statement: “She believes in the role of art in society and knows how to equip institutions to play their part.”
“Contemporary art resists language. It can be very difficult to fix the meaning of a contemporary artwork with words. You can describe what it looks like, how it behaves, how it is made and even how you feel about it, but these rarely explain why the artist has made the work or its singular meaning. Artworks are formed in fundamentally different ways to written texts and obey a different set of rules.”
In 2009, Tawadros was appointed chief executive at Dacs, the non-profit rights management organisation which collects and distributes royalties to visual artists and their estates through Artist’s Resale Right and copyright licensing. During the Covid-19 pandemic she launched a Manifesto for Artists which DACS described as “a roadmap for visual artists out of the crisis”.
Bloomsbury last year published an anthology of Tawadros’s writings, The Sphinx Contemplating Napoleon: Global Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Difference, which examined works by artists such as Frank Bowling and Mona Hatoum. She recently chose her “favourite painting”, The Slave Ship (1840) by JMW Turner, for Country Life magazine.