Cullinan to be next BM director

Nicholas Cullinan, currently director of the National Portrait Gallery, is to head the British Museum in possibly its most troubled period in its 256-year history. The appointment was approved by 10 Downing Street today.

Succeeding interim director Mark Jones, who took over when Hartwig Fischer when he resigned last summer, Cullinan’s in-tray includes the fallout from 1,500 artefacts missing, stolen or damaged at the museum, and a renovation costed by BM chairman George Osborne at over £1bn, as well as opposition over sponsorship by fossil fuel companies.

Image courtesy National Portrait Gallery

Osborne said the trustees chose Cullinan for his “proven leadership today and great potential for tomorrow”.

Cullinan, 46, was appointed director of the NPG in 2015. Born in Connecticut of British parents, Cullinan was home-schooled and educated at the Courtauld Institute. He began his NPG career as a visitor services assistant, in the meantime working at Tate Modern and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. As NPG director has overseen a major refurbishment of the building, completed last year.

At the BM he faces an in-tray that includes the fallout from around 1,500 artefacts found to be missing, stolen or damaged at the museum, and overseeing its renovation, as well as demands for the return to Athens of the Elgin Marbles..

He said the British Museum was approaching an exciting period in its history. “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 said.

He will start in the summer.

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