Giles Waterfield’s successors at Dulwich - Desmond Shawe-Taylor and Ian Dejardin were able to build on the success he made of it although they did not have any less a difficult time; overseeing the closure and transformation of the Gallery with the building of the Rick Mather addition which added modern essentials of toilets, a shop and café. Both men set in train an outstanding series of temporary exhibitions, the former with Pieter de Hooch and the Dutch Flower paintings and the latter with Arcimboldo and Eric Ravilious.
It is pity but understandable that Ian Dejardin now seeks pastures new after spending nineteen years at Dulwich, seven years as curator, and twelve years as director. During this time he has ‘discovered’ North America, initially with Winslow Homer and Norman Rockwell, then pushing further north into Canada to strike a rich vein with the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. Ian’s campaign to highlight the work of forgotten or lesser known artists, gave us Escher’s incredible drawings, the Age of Brilliance and currently Vanessa Bell. He also pulled off the remarkable coup to celebrate the 200th anniversary with Director’s Choice, a monthly masterpiece borrowed from great galleries around the world. We will be everlastingly grateful to him for bringing the unexpected to us and wish him well in his new role as Executive Director of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Toronto.
Dulwich has also lost its chief curator, Xavier Bray who has become the Director of the Wallace Collection. Few will forget his memorable, bold (and expensive!) re-setting of the Gallery into the Seville Church of Santa Maria la Blanca to display the wonderful collection of Murillos. Xavier is a specialist in Spanish art and last year curated the hugely popular Goya exhibition of portraits at the National Gallery. Expect to see him on television one day. It is his ambition to communicate an appreciation of art through the small screen.
And now, it is In with the new, and goodness what a change. For the first time Dulwich has a woman as director and a woman as chairman of the trustees. Both are highly motivated and experienced and both are specialists in the Renaissance. Jennifer Scott comes to Dulwich as director following two successful years at the Holburne Museum, Bath. Before that appointment she was, for ten years, curator of the Royal Collections. She is a specialist in Royal portraiture and Dutch and Flemish art. In 2007 she worked with Desmond Shawe-Taylor on a book on the works of Rubens and Breughal.
The new chairman of the trustees, Professor Evelyn Welch is professor of Renaissance Studies at King’s College and Vice Principal of Arts & Sciences. Clearly they will make a formidable team. Whilst they are ideally suited to keep building interest in the permanent collection of Old Masters in fresh ways, many will hope that they will continue to plough the rich furrow of undiscovered artists begun by their predecessors.
The ‘Dulwich Pavilion’
As part of their June celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the Picture Gallery opening to the public, the Gallery partnered with the London Festival of Architecture to run an architectural competition for the design of a temporary pavilion to be located in the grounds. 75 entries were received and a shortlist of 4 presented their ideas at the end of January. The winner is IF_DO, a young practice based in Camberwell. Their design, ‘After Image’, is a lightweight structure featuring a timber truss roof overlaid with a mesh veil to create a canopy-like environment designed to respond to the solidity and monolithic nature of Sir John Soane’s gallery building, and the porous, ever-changing nature of the landscape around it.
The pavilion, funded by residential developer Almacantar, will provide allow an ambitious celebratory programme of exhibitions, events, lectures and learning activities. It will also be an important venue for the 2017 London festival of Architecture in June, which explores the theme “memory” - at Dulwich and many other venues across the capital.