National Galleries of Scotland has announces first female director general

The National Galleries of Scotland has announced the appointment of a new director general.

Anne Lyden will take over from Sir John Leighton in January, following his 17-year tenure, and be the first woman to hold the position in the history of the National Galleries. 

She will bring a wealth of experience, most recently as Interim Co-Director of Collection and Research.

‘I am looking forward to this incredible opportunity to lead the National Galleries of Scotland in the next chapter of its impressive history,’ Anne said. 

‘It is my great privilege to continue the excellent work led by Sir John and colleagues over the years, most recently the success of the new Scottish galleries at the National. 

‘I am eager to continue my work with Trustees, colleagues, community partners, audiences, artists, and supporters in realising our plans for the future including The Art Works, our new collections facility in North Edinburgh. 

‘Having worked with the national collection and a wide range of colleagues over the last ten years, I am delighted to continue this experience of making art accessible to everyone.’

Born in West Dunbartonshire, Anne grew up in Clydebank and studied History of Art at the University of Glasgow, and Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. 

She held various curatorial positions at the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where she worked for 18 years before joining the National Galleries of Scotland. 

As International Photography Curator and then Chief Curator, Photography, Anne curated numerous exhibitions including Coming Clean: Graham Macindoe, A Perfect Chemistry: Photographs by Hill & Adamson, and ARTIST ROOMS—Self Evidence: Photographs by Woodman, Arbus and Mapplethorpe.

In 2022, she became Interim Co-Director of Collection and Research where she led a directorate, overseeing the public programme across three sites and building on several research initiatives to widen accessibility and representation within the collection.

Author of numerous publications, Anne has written widely on the subject of photography and art.

The process of recruiting the new Director-General began earlier this year.

Outgoing director general, Sir John Leighton. Credit: Bryan Robertson.

Benny Higgins, chair of National Galleries of Scotland Board of Trustees, said: ‘I am thrilled that we have appointed Anne Lyden as our new Director-General. 

‘Anne brings a strong understanding of the national collection and our talented people, together with extensive international experience.  

‘Over the past few months, we embarked on a rigorous search to find our next Director-General, resulting in us speaking to many people across the UK and internationally. 

‘Following a thorough recruitment process, we know we have the right person to lead the National Galleries of Scotland into the future.  

‘Anne’s strong personal values and leadership style, coupled with her knowledge of art, will see us deliver on our strategic commitments and I am looking forward to working with her.’

Sir John Leighton said: ‘Anne Lyden is a highly talented curator and leader with a strong commitment to inclusion and diversity.

‘She has a compelling vision of the benefits that access to great art can achieve in these volatile times and is the right person to drive forward the National Galleries’ commitment to bringing world-class art to the widest possible audience.’

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