Gilane Tawadros, the chief executive of Dacs (the Design and Artists Copyright Society), has been appointed the director of the Whitechapel Gallery in East London, replacing Iwona Blazwick who stepped down earlier this year after 20 years in the post.
In a statement, Tawadros says she will work with the institution’s board and team, along with artists and local communities, to “shape a future for the gallery that is bravely responsive to the pressing socio-political and environmental context of our time”. Her vision for the pivotal London institution, which opened in 1901, will be scrutinised once she takes up the post in October. David Dibosa, the chair of Whitechapel Gallery trustees, says in a statement: “She believes in the role of art in society and knows how to equip institutions to play their part.”
In 2009, Tawadros was appointed chief executive at Dacs, the non-profit rights management organisation which collects and distributes royalties to visual artists and their estates through Artist’s Resale Right and copyright licensing. During the Covid-19 pandemic she launched a Manifesto for Artists which Dacs described as “a roadmap for visual artists out of the crisis”.
Tawadros was the founding director of the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva) in London, which opened in 1994 under the influential late Jamaican-British cultural theorist Stuart Hall. “Cultural diversity, access and inclusivity are abiding concerns for me that underpin a desire to make contemporary art and the art gallery central to all our lives,” Tawadros adds. In 2014, she established the Art360Foundation, which assists artists and artist estates in building accessible archives.
She has championed Black UK women artists, organising the recent career survey of the Turner prize nominee Ingrid Pollard at the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes. Her curatorial practice focuses on race and globalisation, with an “emphasis on how artistic practice offers new ways of seeing and making sense of the world”, says a statement.
Last year, Bloomsbury published an anthology of Tawadros’s writings, The Sphinx Contemplating Napoleon: Global Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Difference, which examined works by artists such as Frank Bowling and Mona Hatoum. She recently chose her “favourite painting”, The Slave Ship (1840) by JMW Turner, for Country Life magazine