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News Flash: Nicholas Penny to Direct National Gallery, London

Nicholas Penny

From London’s National Gallery, to Washington’s National Gallery, to London’s National Gallery:

Nicholas Penny, one of those whom I identified in October as the two leading candidates to become next director of the National Gallery in London, has apparently won the prized assignment.

Louise Jury of the London Evening Standard reports:

National Gallery staff have not yet been told of the appointment which is awaiting ratification by the Prime Minister via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport which is considered to be a formality.

That’s a lot of “whiches,” but it looks like a done deal. I’ve got an (unanswered) call in to the press office of the National Gallery, London. But Deborah Ziska, chief press officer of Washington’s National Gallery, today informed me:

Neither he [Penny] nor we can comment on the NG appointment until it becomes official. In the meantime, I have not heard anyone denying the press reports.

That sounds like a backhanded confirmation to me.

Penny is currently senior curator of sculpture and decorative arts at the National Gallery, Washington, where he arrived five years ago from London’s National Gallery. In London, where he had been curator of Renaissance painting since 1990, he lost out in a bid five years ago for the directorship that he has now won. (It then went, instead, to Charles Saumarez Smith, who left, under controversial circumstances, to become secretary of the Royal Academy.)

Penny is expected to assume his new post this spring. As I noted in October: Sometimes you’ve just got to leave a museum for it to fully appreciate you.

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