The new chairman of London’s National Gallery is the Conservative party donor John Booth, an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He has been appointed by its board to succeed Tony Hall, a former BBC director-general who stood down in May following a row over Martin Bashir’s controversial 1995 interview with Diana, Princess of Wales.
Booth only joined the National Gallery board in February, initially as Tate’s liaison trustee and then last month as a trustee appointed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He also chairs the Prince’s Trust and Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, as well as the communications company Maintel and the London Theatre Company (which runs The Bridge Theatre). His main business interests are in e-commerce, media and telecommunications.
Booth says that he is delighted to be taking up the post as the National Gallery “prepares to celebrate its 200th anniversary in 2024”. To coincide with the bicentenary, the gallery is embarking on a £30m refurbishment project and fundraising will be high on his agenda. Booth’s first term will last until 2025 and he would then be eligible for a second one.
Four years ago, Booth donated £207,000 to the Conservative party. Concern has been expressed about arts organisations being chaired by those close to the Tory party. In June, former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was named as chairman of the British Museum, a post he will assume on 4 October.