Minutes of the Board meeting held on Friday 10 February 2006
Minutes of the last meeting and matters arising
1. The Board approved the minutes of the meeting held on 1 December 2005, which were duly signed by the Chairman.
Minute 1, marketing presentation: a meeting had been arranged on 10 March for the Tate Liaison Trustee to be briefed on brand values and the extent of NGC’s involvement in their development.
Minute 2, statue of Nelson Mandela: it was reported that the Deputy Prime Minister had ruled against the proposed site in the middle of the north terrace in Trafalgar Square.
Minute 2, potential acquisition: the Director reported that final payment was due to be made the following week for Adolph Menzel’s 'An Afternoon in the Tuileries Gardens', currently still on loan in Dresden.
Minute 6, pda proposal: the Director reported that in view of the cost, it had been decided that this would go ahead only if sponsorship were found to cover that and the other expenses associated with the re-display of the nineteenth-century collection.
2. Additional items: the Director announced that the Gallery’s Curator of Dutch Paintings, Axel Rüger, had been appointed Director of the Van Gogh Museum. The Board congratulated him and wished him well for the future.
The Director briefed the Board on the Gallery’s application to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for analogue status, the probable reasons for its failure and proposed next steps.
Exhibitions: 'Tom Hunter: Living in Hell and Other Stories' was proving a great success. The main report on the Rubens exhibition would be made to the March Board meeting.
Visitor numbers: the Director gave an analysis of recent trends and how they might have been affecting the Gallery’s visitor figures: 'Rubens' had not been as attractive to visitors as some other recent exhibitions in London lessening the ‘halo effect’ whereby successful exhibitions led to an increase in visits to the permanent collection; UK visitors from outside London were still avoiding the capital; and while museums popular with Londoners, who were undeterred from travelling within London, were recovering well, the National Gallery continued to suffer as tourists from the US and Europe were still staying away and these made up a large proportion of the Gallery’s traditional visiting public. He also reported that some events in Trafalgar Square, while drawing crowds to the area, were unhelpful in obscuring and in some cases obstructing entrances to the Gallery.
The Chairman proposed that visitor research be carried out to assess the effect of these events; that their impact on the Gallery be discussed with GLA; and that more should be done to the front of the Gallery, perhaps by cleaning the façade or work to the lawns, to strengthen its presence and make it more attractive. He asked to be fully briefed on London visitor figures and the Gallery’s plans in time for the annual meeting of Chairmen of London NMGs. Suggestions from other Trustees included changes to the exhibition programme to ensure a more continuous run; joint advertising by London museums with similar collections, a dedicated bus service to travel between them and a map showing where to find the different branches of the national collection; wider advertising of the National Gallery throughout the UK; and encouragement for visitors from the Far East including the translation of Gallery guides and other publications into Mandarin and Cantonese.
It was agreed that a paper with the Gallery’s proposals should be prepared for the March or April Board meeting.
3. The Board noted the Gallery’s evidence, which concentrated on the lack of public funding for acquisitions, given in response to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee enquiry into protecting and preserving the nation’s heritage. The Chairman thanked Trustees for their contributions, and proposed that the paper be kept, developed and up-dated as a useful tool for the future. The Board discussed the changing role of the HLF and the difficulties now facing the NACF, for whose support the Gallery remained extremely grateful.
Discussion followed as to the best way forward for the Gallery particularly as the decline in public funding for acquisitions seemed more than likely to continue.
It was agreed that a sub-group of Trustees would be set up to work with Gallery staff on acquisition strategy and funding and to bring back recommendations to the main Board.
Freedom of Information: annual report on enquiries
4. The Board noted the report on enquiries made to the Gallery under the Freedom of Information Act during the past year.
5. The Director of Resources presented the funding agreement and noted Trustees’ comments and amendments.
The Board approved the agreement subject to the above proposed changes.
Quarterly management report
6. The Board noted the quarterly management accounts.
7. Professor David Ekserdjian declared an interest in the loan request from the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples and took no part in the discussion of that item.
The Board agreed to the requests put forward in the Senior Curator’s paper with one condition: that the National Gallery’s doubts about the attribution of the Dürer portrait of 'The Painter’s Father' (NG 1938) be made clear to the borrowers, the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.
The Board endorsed the decisions to decline to lend put forward in the paper and noted the changes to exhibition dates affecting the loans of NG 6517, NG 6272, NG 2923 and NG 809, and the cancellation of the loan requests for NG 3292 and NG 1473.
The Gallery was asked to consider carefully the relative importance of the three-year guideline.
Minutes of Board committees
8. The Board noted the minutes of the Trustees Masterplan Committee held on 16 January 2006.
Pictures for treatment
9. The Board approved the treatment proposed for 'Saint Anthony Abbot' by Giovanni di Nicola (NG 3896) and noted progress on 'The Adoration of the Shepherds 'by Guido Reni (NG 6270) and 'Philip IV hunting Wild Boar (La Tela Real)' by Diego Velázquez.
Application from the National Gallery Company
10. The Board approved a grant of £14,384 to NGC towards the production costs of Volume 27 of the 'National Gallery Technical Bulletin'.
11. The Board noted the report on picture movements.
Any other business
12. The Board expressed their sadness at the death of Giles Worsley and their and the Gallery’s gratitude to him for his very valuable contribution as an outside member to the discussions of both the Trustees’ Building and Masterplan Committees.