Gilane Tawadros, a Champion of Artists’ Rights and Diversity, Will Head London’s Whitechapel Gallery

She will replace Iwona Blazwick, who is stepping down after 20 years steering the U.K. institution.

Gilane Tawadros. Photo Brian Benson

Gilane Tawadros will become the new director of Whitechapel Gallery. The announcement comes after its current director, Iwona Blazwick CBE, announced in January that she would step down after two decades at the helm of the East London institution.

Tawadros, who takes up her new post in October, has forged a career on championing the interests of artists with a focus on improving diversity in the U.K. She is the founder of the acclaimed Institute of International Visual Arts in London, also known as the INIVA, an organization focused on commissioning art by British artists from the African and Asian diasporas. The nonprofit helped launch the early careers of artists such as Yinka Shonibare MBE, Steve McQueen, and Sonia Boyce.

“This is a really difficult moment in lots of ways; sociopolitically, economically,” said Tawdros in a telephone interview. “It’s also a time of opportunity and a challenge for all of us who work in the arts to think about how we step up.”

Tawadros added that she was looking forward to building on the community engagement that is “part of the DNA” of the institution. “Whitechapel is in one of the most diverse parts of the U.K., which also has the youngest population in the country.” she said. “The opportunity to bring contemporary art to a really exciting audience who can participate directly in the program and inform it is something that excites me.”

She has big shoes to fill as she will replace the much-loved Iwona Blazwick, who governed over the institution with great success. Blazwick, who discovered Damien Hirst, oversaw a huge expansion of The Whitechapel and launched the Max Mara Art Prize for women in 2005.

Chair of Whitechapel Gallery Trustees David Dibosa applauded Tawadros’s “compelling vision” for the institution and her ongoing commitment to artists.

Tawadros is currently working as chief executive of the Design and Artists Copyright Society, commonly referred to at DACS, which deals with image rights and artist rights; the non-profit also specializes in innovating revenue streams for artists. She started out her career in the 1990s by founding the first education programs at the Hayward Gallery.

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