In memoriam, June 2015

Remembering Jane Farver, Moira Gemmill, Edward Douglas Coke, James Malpas and Piotr Piotrowski


Jane Farver, an independent curator and the former director of the List Visual Arts Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), died on 29 April, aged 68. Farver took her bachelor’s degree at Seton Hill College, Pennsylvania, and a master’s degree in art history at Ohio’s Kent State University. She was variously the curator of the Alternative Museum, the director of the Lehman College Art Gallery and the director of exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art, all in New York. She led the MIT List Visual Arts Center from 1999 to 2011, and was the commissioner of the 2011 Incheon Women Artists’ Biennale in South Korea. From 2012 she was a consulting director to US Biennial Inc. She died suddenly in Venice while working with the artist Joan Jonas on the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Moira Gemmill, the former design director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London, died on 9 April, aged 55. Gemmill was born on a farm in Kintyre, western Scotland, and studied at the Glasgow School of Art. In 1980, she joined Aberdeen Art Gallery as the head of programmes. She was head-hunted, in 1998, by Simon Thurley, then the director of the Museum of London, where she helped to transform the displays. In 2002, she was appointed head of design at the V&A, leading the £150m programme to upd ate the museum’s exhibition spaces. In January 2015, she became the director of the Royal Collection Trust’s capital programmes, tasked with improving exhibition spaces at Holyrood Palace and Windsor Castle, but her career was tragically cut short by her death in a cycling accident.

Edward Douglas Coke, the seventh Earl of Leicester, owner of a 25,000-acre estate in Norfolk and Holkham Hall, a Palladian house designed by William Kent, died on 25 April, aged 78. Coke was born in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and brought up in South Africa. In 1973, he inherited the Holkham Estate, along with crippling death duties. Over time, Lord Leicester restored the house, built up a successful farm and created 48 businesses that made the estate solvent. He retired from its active oversight in 2005, handing over to his son, Thomas, Viscount Coke. From 1998 to 2003 he was the president of the Historic Houses Association, during which time he persuaded the Labour government to delay taxes on those stately homes contributing to tourism and regional economies. He himself protected his tenants by taking lower than commercial rents and refusing to let estate houses to second-home owners.

James Malpas, an art teacher, historian, lecturer and writer, died on 13 May, aged 56. He took his first degree in English literature and art history at the University of Cambridge in 1981 and went on to take an MPhil in 1984 in Renaissance studies at the Warburg Institute, London University. He briefly ran an art college in Great Russell Street, London, and was a freelance lecturer at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Contemporary Art Society and the National Art Collections Fund (now the Art Fund). Malpas was on the staff of Sotheby’s Institute for 25 years from 1986 and was a frequent contributor of book reviews to

The Art Newspaper.

Piotr Piotrowski, the Polish art historian and museum director, died on 3 May, aged 62. In 1996, Piotrowski was appointed the chairman of the Modern art history department at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, and served as the director of its Art History Institute from 1999 to 2008. He was also the senior curator of contemporary art at the National Museum, Poznan, from 1992 to 1997. Piotrowski became the director of the National Museum in Warsaw in 2009 and se t out to elevate the dusty institution to the best European standards. In 2010, he organised the Ars Homo Erotica exhibition, a survey of homoerotic art from antiquity to the present, which he hoped would revitalise the image of the museum. In a country with a strong Roman Catholic tradition, the show attracted considerable media attention. Piotrowski resigned as museum director shortly afterwards.


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