Six full-time members of staff—including three curators—have been made redundant at the Whitechapel Gallery in London as part of a restructure. Two people in the gallery’s development department and the most senior role in commercial ventures have also been made redundant in a bid to cut costs. The former chief curator, Lydia Yee, and Candy Stobbs, a member of the curatorial team for more than 20 years, are among those affected.
The gallery’s curatorial team will now be led by the director, Gilane Tawadros, supported by two existing curators (currently in post as assistant curators), a special projects curator, and a new position of Head of Exhibitions. Tawadros was appointed in May last year.
According to the gallery’s annual report for 2021-22, the gallery received income of £4.5m and incurred expenditure of £4.7m on total funds, resulting in a deficit of £73,016 after investment gains.
A Whitechapel spokesperson says however that the gallery is experiencing a “significant deficit” in the 2022/23 financial year as a result of increased energy costs, general inflation, slower than expected trading due to post-Covid consumer behaviour and other pressures on the business model.
“On top of which, is the significant reduction in funding from the Arts Council England (ACE). Whitechapel Gallery is committed to achieving annual surpluses from the 2023/24 financial year onwards and is making changes to its strategy and business model to ensure that this is the case,” the spokesperson adds.
But Iwona Blazwick, the former director of the Whitechapel Gallery, tells The Art Newspaper: “The ACE reduction was relatively modest so it is alarming to learn that highly experienced curators and fundraisers are losing their jobs and that programmes are being axed. I hope that the gallery will maintain its commitment to artists and its reputation as a platform for important art and ideas.” ACE funding for the institution dropped from £1,510,168 annually (2018-22) to £1,437,955 (2023-26).
Tawadros adds in a statement: “Like so many arts institutions today, Whitechapel Gallery must address the challenges of a reduction in ACE funding alongside rising energy costs and pressing environmental and social concerns. A robust business model is essential to ensuring that Whitechapel Gallery continues to serve artists, audiences, and supporters in the future.
“To move forward from a significant financial deficit in 2022/23, anticipated in 2021/22, we have had to take the very difficult decision to make a small re-structure. This is incredibly hard for all concerned, but we are immensely grateful to the dedicated and passionate team members who have played and continue to play such an important part in making the gallery an inspirational organisation.”
The gallery’s board of trustees, led by the academic David Dibosa, approved the need to make cost savings and does not make executive decisions in its governance role, adds the spokesperson.