Deborah Swallow is stepping down as Märit Rausing director of The Courtauld Institute of Art in London after 18 years, opening up a vacancy for one of the most prestigious posts in art world academia. The Courtauld Institute, a self-governing college of the University of London, is the UK's only higher education institution to focus solely on the history and conservation of art.
Swallow oversaw Courtauld Connects during the Covid-19 pandemic, a major redevelopment project costing £57m which transformed the Courtauld Gallery, teaching, learning and social spaces. The Courtauld Gallery re-opened last November following a four-year refurbishment, housing a plethora of new galleries and spaces with backing from major sponsors including the luxury conglomerate LVMH and the Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard Blavatnik.
In January 2019, the institute relocated to a temporary campus at Vernon Square, King’s Cross. Phase 1 of Courtauld Connects will be complete in summer 2022 with the move of the conservation department back to Somerset House, the Courtauld’s base. The rest of the project is due to be completed in 2025 when all of The Courtauld’s teaching and research operations will return from the King’s Cross campus. Late 2019, academic staff manned picket lines at the campus, taking industrial action over pay and pensions.
In another major move, The Courtauld announced earlier this year that it will enter into a ten-year "strategic partnership" with its neighbour on The Strand, King's College, London. The new partnership allows both colleges to pool together teaching resources, offer joint degrees and share facilities. King's College counted 33,110 students and more than 5,000 academic staff during the 2019/20 academic year. The Courtauld numbered 545 students and around 35 academic staff in the same period.
A statement outlining “achievements during Professor Swallow’s tenure” highlights how professor Susan Babaie covers the Islamic and Iranian worlds while “a new development in the field of critical race theory/post-colonial approaches, black art history, supported by the Andrew W.Mellon Foundation, is being led by Professor Dorothy Price and Indie A. Choudhury.”
During Swallow’s tenure, the Centre for American Art was established in 2016 with support from the Terra Foundation, under Professor David Peters-Corbett and Professor Jo Applin. Meanwhile, The Courtauld’s MA Curating Programme was established in 2007, led by Professor Martin Caiger-Smith.
Another new MA programme in Buddhist Art, History and Conservation, will begin this autumn. The statement also adds that “The Courtauld’s endowment has grown to a corpus of over £65m. Meanwhile, The Courtauld has continued to raise around £2.5m per annum to support in-year projects and scholarships.”
On the research front, 56% of submissions forwarded for the Research Excellence Framework in 2014/15— the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions—achieved the highest rating of 4*. In the latest Center for World University Rankings published yesterday, the Courtauld is placed at 731 out of 2,000 top institutions worldwide.
Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, who holds a master's degree in art history from the Courtauld, says in a statement: “[Swallow] arrived in 2004 with an exciting vision to move the institution from its euro-centric focus to a global institution, rooted in traditions of excellence… Deborah expanded The Courtauld’s donor base and network of scholars and supporters to ensure the institution’s relevance and sustainability.”
The Courtauld’s governing board will undertake an international search for the new director; Swallow will continue to lead The Courtauld until a successful candidate is in place.