Controversies United Kingdom

ICA director Eshun leaves early

Private report cites “poor management” and “bad luck”

Exit: former chairman Yentob, left, and former director Eshun

LONDON. Ekow Eshun, the executive director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London, who resigned last September but was due to stay at the organisation until March, left his post early on 30 November, The Art Newspaper has learned. His departure fol- lows that of Alan Yentob, the chair of the ICA board since 2002, who left in October.

Eshun’s exit comes after two years of financial turbulence at the ICA, which the executive director—who joined the organisation as artistic director in 2005—blamed on the recession, creating “a perfect storm of events”. But a confidential report, seen by The Art Newspaper, cites a mixture of “poor management” and “bad luck” as underlying the crisis at the institution.

One of the key findings of the report, compiled by independent curator David Thorp with the support of arts consul- tant Tim Eastop and Karen Turner, now director of strategy and development at the ICA, was that management style at the organisation—including the involvement of the board—was too “hands off”. The report, which was commissioned as a condition of the ICA’s application for emergency sustain funding from Arts Council England, also found that the artistic director “would benefit from leadership development and executive coaching”.

It has been suggested that financial decisions taken by Eshun and Guy Perricone, the former managing director at the ICA who resigned in October 2009, placed the organisation at risk—something Eshun has denied. But other concerns flagged up in the report include a need for “realistic budgets” and “far more rigorous financial awareness”. The report also found that a lack of financial planning in the development department meant “income has been boosted by opportunistic one-off projects, sales and lucky breaks”.

According to a spokeswoman at the ICA, Eshun’s decision to leave the institution three months early had been “quite amicably” agreed with the board. “Essentially it was just an agreement they decided to bring forward,” she said, adding, “six months is a long notice period”.

At time of going to press, the recently appointed chair of the board, Alison Myners, had not yet announced the name of the new director.

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