After 26 years at the helm, Jenni Lomax is to step down as the director of the Camden Arts Centre in north London next July. During her tenure, Lomax transformed the public institution into an internationally renowned exhibition space, giving artists such as Sophie Calle, Valie Export and Marlene Dumas their first solo shows in the UK.
Her first exhibition at the centre in 1991 was a show of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Minus Objects–the first time the group of everyday and found objects was shown in its entirety. “That exhibition really set out what I intended to do with the programme at Camden,” Lomax says.
Lomax recently oversaw celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Camden Arts Centre and a successful auction at Christie’s in support of the centre’s artist-led projects and residency programmes. The venue is much loved by artists, with Glenn Ligon, Martin Creed, Wolfgang Tillmans and Kerry James Marshall among those who donated works to the sale.
“With the 50th anniversary and auction, I feel it’s a good time to leave,” says Lomax, who was awarded an OBE in 2009. “There’s money in the bank and I am leaving the place in good nick.”
However, she also warns that there’s still a lot to be done to secure the future of the arts in the UK, particularly in light of the recent cuts to funding. Camden Arts Centre now receives no money from local government. “The world is in a very precarious place, and now more than ever we need these creative minds. The capital is going to become depleted of that energy if we are not careful,” Lomax says.
Before taking up her role at Camden Arts Centre, Lomax helped set up and run the pioneering community education programme under Nicholas Serota at the Whitechapel Gallery in east London. Although she studied at the Maidstone School of Art, early on Lomax became interested in education, teaching in art schools and running workshops for young people.
“Leaving is a big step but I very much hope to be able to use my many years of experience to benefit the future of the arts and education,” Lomax says. The search for a new director will begin early next year.