Introduction from the Secretary of State
It is my privilege as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to invite you to apply to this role.
DCMS public bodies play a vital role in promoting growth across the digital, culture, sport, and media sectors. We protect and promote our cultural and artistic heritage and help businesses and communities to grow by investing in innovation and highlighting Britain as a fantastic place to visit. To ensure the success of these organisations, we need talented people to apply to public appointments. Our boards can only thrive when benefitting from the best people, from the broadest range of backgrounds, and with the widest range of perspectives.
But why should you apply? Many of our board members are driven by the desire to give something back to your country and your community. When you’re on a board, you can use your voice to help to ensure that our organisations are delivering the right things for everyone throughout the UK. But we also believe that these roles provide an unparalleled opportunity to develop your skills, build networks, and raise your profile - at whatever stage in your life and career.
Whoever you are, wherever you have come from - you can be sure to thrive in a DCMS board role. So If you are reading this and thinking of applying to this role, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so, and I wish you the very best of luck.
National Portrait Gallery - Background
Established in 1856, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery is to maintain a collection of portraits of the most eminent persons in British history, of other works of art relevant to portraiture and of documents relating to those portraits and other works of art.
The National Portrait Gallery is unique in being both for and about people. From Katherine Parr to Martin Parr, we serve as the nation’s family album, inviting everyone to meet the people who have made – and are making – Britain what it is today. The Gallery highlights the cultural and historical links that we all share and that bind us together, something that is more important now than ever. It plays a clear and urgent role in helping to foster empathy, social cohesion and inclusion, which were among its founding principles and remain just as true and relevant today.
The Gallery is home to the largest and most prestigious collection of portraits in the world. Its Collection (comprising the Primary Collection, the Reference Collections and the Photographs Collection) includes people from all four corners of this country, who have shaped our society over the past 500 years, and show the potential in everyone to make a difference. The Primary Collection contains some 12,700 portraits. In addition, there are some 8,540 works on paper, more than 335,000 images in the Gallery’s Reference Collections and 250,000 original photographic images in the Gallery’s Photographs Collection dating from the 1840s to the present day, of which at least 130,000 are original negatives.
The Gallery’s website attracted a record-breaking 3.7 million visits in 2021/22 and its social media channels now reach over 1.69 million followers. Recent achievements include the opening of international exhibitions in the Netherlands, Australia, Korea and the U.S (Icons and Identities and Tudors to Windsors), and two significant exhibition collaborations which brought major parts of the Collection to audiences across the UK: Bloomsbury: Life, Love, Legacy, curated by York Art Gallery with Sheffield Museums in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and shown in Sheffield and York, and Tudors: Passion, Power, Politics, curated by the Holburne Museum, National Museums Liverpool and the National Portrait Gallery and shown in Bath. The COMING HOME project continued to take portraits ‘home’ to venues where the sitter has a strong resonance. The portraits of Andy Murray and L.S. Lowry ‘came home’ to Wimbledon and the Lowry Centre, Salford respectively in 2021. March 2022 saw the first of three commissioned ‘fortieth birthday portraits’ of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge by Paolo Roversi on tour to St James the Less church in Pangbourne.
The Gallery currently employs around 150 staff and total income in 2021/22 was £35.3 million. As with other national museums, while it receives government support as an Arm’s Length Body of DCMS, the Gallery increasingly relies on its ability to supplement this grant from other sources and self-generated income, which amounted to 56% of annual income in 2021/22. While the building at St Martin’s Place remains closed and as the Gallery seeks to complete its major capital campaign, the ability to generate income from a variety of other sources remains of increasing importance.
Significant successes over the past few years, including critically acclaimed exhibitions and key acquisitions and commissions, have raised the Gallery’s aspirations and confidence. To continue with such successes, while coping with limited resources, requires a determined sense of direction, clear planning and continued efficiency across the institution as a whole.
Through public research and consultation, a number of limitations to future growth and engagement have been identified, which has led to the Gallery embarking on a £35.5m capital project, Inspiring People, the most transformative since its home at St Martin’s Place opened in 1896. Inspiring People will deliver overarching and transformative improvements, including a complete refurbishment of the galleries; a new entrance and forecourt; a much needed new Learning Centre; and restoration of the original East Wing. The project will transform the building, making it more welcoming and appealing to the widest and most diverse audiences possible, as well as restoring historic features of our beautiful Grade 1 listed home. At its heart is an ambitious, more engaging and much-needed comprehensive re-display of the Gallery’s collections, from top to bottom, Tudors to now.
The renewed National Portrait Gallery will be a truly national gallery for everyone, reflecting the Britain of today and an essential place for those looking to understand the culture that they chose, were born into, or seek to understand.
In order to complete the project efficiently and to safeguard visitors, members of staff and the Collection, the Gallery in St Martin’s Place is temporarily closed to the public until summer 2023, while essential building works take place. Through a series of partnerships and collaborations during the period of redevelopment, the Gallery will continue to share its unique Collection of portraits with the nation across the UK and internationally.
Partnerships with schools include Faces and Places, a schools outreach programme in London exploring representation and identity and Visible/Invisible brought together the National Portrait Gallery, The Line and London College of Fashion in a substantive collaboration to explore themes of identity and representation in the digital and public realms. The hospital outreach programme, Champions of the World, funded by Delancey, is now in its third year of the four-year project focussing on the life stories of entertainers and sporting legends, activities encouraged drawing, design and play.
An ambitious programme of UK-wide activities has also bring the Gallery closer to communities around the country. Citizen UK, a partnership with community groups in Croydon, Ealing, Tower Hamlets and Wolverhampton explores lived migratory experiences through the lens of portraiture and People Powered, a series of exhibitions created with partners in Brent, Ilford, Hillingdon, Hertfordshire and Teesside, explores manufacturing and industrial heritage through the Collection and partner collections and archives. A National Skills Sharing Partnership continues to deliver a dynamic programme of activities in partnership with twelve museums and galleries across the UK, involving exchanges, mentoring, seminars, exhibitions and displays.
Beyond these projects, the Gallery continues with its ambitious plans for an extensive international collaborations programme and an expanded digital strategy, that will enable it to reach new audiences onsite, online and both across Britain and around the globe. Inspiring People is a hugely exciting project for the National Portrait Gallery and presents a great opportunity for Trustees to support with the next steps of its transformative journey.
More information surrounding the Inspiring People project can be found here:
The chief role of Trustees is to assist the Chair in meeting the Board’s overall responsibilities under the Museums and Galleries Act and the Charities Act, and in accordance with the guidance issued by the Secretary of State. Trustees offer guidance and expertise on the Gallery’s strategy and its practical implementation. They must be positive advocates for the Gallery, representing it to ministers, officials at DCMS, and others. They must also assist the Chair in ensuring that the Gallery’s affairs are conducted with probity.
Trustees must be able to attend Board meetings and such other sub-committee meetings as may be necessary. Board meetings are held four times a year in London, with one additional strategy day. Some additional time will need to be devoted to ad hoc meetings, studying papers, attending events organised by the Gallery and occasional visits to regional partnerships. DCMS is committed to equality of opportunity and is committed to ensuring that public appointments better represent the views of the communities which they serve. We particularly encourage applicants from underrepresented groups, those based outside London and the South-East and applicants who have achieved success through non-traditional educational routes.
Regulation of appointment
This post is regulated by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. For more information, please refer to the Commissioner’s website