UK

Ex-National Portrait Gallery chief appointed British Museum director

He was approved by the Board of Trustees and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

Nicholas Cullinan, who has been appointed director of the British Museum.
Nicholas Cullinan, who has been appointed director of the British Museum. (Yui Mok/PA)

Former National Portrait Gallery chief Nicholas Cullinan has been appointed the new director of the British Museum.

He replaces former Victoria and Albert Museum head Sir Mark Jones, who was made interim director following the resignation of Hartwig Fischer over the thefts at the London-based institution.

Mr Cullinan, who was approved by the Board of Trustees and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, will take over the role from Sir Mark in the summer.

The Princess of Wales with the former director of the National Portrait Gallery, Nicholas Cullinan
The Princess of Wales with the former director of the National Portrait Gallery, Nicholas Cullinan (John Sibley/PA)

Mr Cullinan said: “One of the greatest museums in the world, it is an honour to become the next director of the British Museum.

“I look forward to joining its wonderful and dedicated staff and to work with its hugely impressive Board in leading it into a new chapter.

“This will encompass the most significant transformations, both architectural and intellectual, happening in any museum globally, to continue making the British Museum the most engaged and collaborative it can be.”

He added that he wants to “pay tribute to my predecessors, most recently Sir Mark Jones, and look forward to building on their extraordinary achievements”.

Mr Cullinan faces an in-tray that involves the fallout of around 1,500 artefacts being found to be missing, stolen or damaged at the museum and overseeing its renovation.

He was appointed director of the National Portrait Gallery in April 2015 and has overseen the three-year refurbishment of the Trafalgar Square museum and its reopening.

Mr Cullinan previously worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London.

George Osborne, chairman of the British Museum (left), and Sir Mark Jones
George Osborne, chairman of the British Museum (left), and Sir Mark Jones

George Osborne, chairman of the British Museum, said the trustees chose Mr Cullinan as he “brings proven leadership today and great potential for tomorrow”.

“He has shown his capacity as director of the National Portrait Gallery to oversee both a major physical renovation and a compelling renewal of purpose in a way that doesn’t take sides, but brings people together – and won universal acclaim,” Mr Osborne added.

“We believe he can achieve this, and more, on the bigger scale of the British Museum as we undertake a once-in-a-generation redevelopment. In doing so he can build on the solid foundations laid by Mark Jones, to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for stepping into the breach last year.

“I could not be more thrilled for Nick and more excited for us as we enter this new chapter in the long story of the British Museum with confidence, and back on the front foot.”