Gilane Tawadros, the chief artists executive of the London-based rights management nonprofit DACS, will be the next director of Whitechapel Gallery in the British capital. She will be the 10th person to hold the post at the storied institution, founded in 1901, which is known for its prescient contemporary art exhibitions.
Beginning in her role in October, Tawadros replaces Iwona Blazwick, who announced in January that she would step down as director after 20 years in the job. At the time, Blazwick said in a statement, “As the gallery emerges from the pandemic in a strong financial position and with programs admired and respected around the world, now seems a good time to hand over the reins.”
“I am overjoyed that Gilane Tawadros will lead Whitechapel Gallery at the next stage of its history,” Whitechapel’s chair David Dibosa said in a statement. “Gilane has a compelling vision and brings decades of experience to help make this a reality. She believes in the role of art in society and knows how to equip institutions to play their part. Throughout her career, Gilane has remained committed to artists alongside all those who help to bring their work into public view.”
Since 2009, Tawadros has been at DACS, which manages the image rights of over 180,000 artists and estates from around the world. She recently developed a new mission and initiated a push to use the blockchain and artificial intelligence to benefit the artists it represents.
Last year, through DACS, she launched “Manifesto for Artists,” which proposed policy changes that would provide financial support directly to artists in the wake of the ongoing pandemic. One proposal, Smart Fund, detailed how to generate £300 million ($367 million) for British artists annually.
Tawadros’s 30-year career includes posts at various other British arts organizations. In the ’90s, she was instrumental in establishing an education program at the Hayward Gallery in London, and she served as the founding director, between 1994 and 2005, of London’s Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva). In her role at the latter organization, she co-led an £8 million capital campaign to develop a permanent home for Iniva at Rivington Place, which was designed by star architect David Adjaye.
In addition to her institutional work, Tawadros founded the Art360 Foundation, a charity that supports artists’ archives, and is the current chair of the Stuart Hall Foundation, which was established in 2015, the year after the acclaimed theorist’s death, and focuses on public education as a means to address race and inequity.
Additionally, she has also published several books, including Sonia Boyce: Talking in Tongues (1995), Changing States: Contemporary Art and Ideas in an Era of Globalisation (2004), Life is More Important Than Art (2007), The New Economy of Art (2014), and The Sphinx Contemplating Napoleon: Global Perspectives on Contemporary Art and Difference (2021), an anthology of her writings.
In a statement, Tawadros said, “I look forward to working in close collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery’s Board and team, artists, and communities in East London, across the country and the globe, to shape a future for the Gallery that is bravely responsive to the pressing sociopolitical and environmental context of our time. 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.”