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Minutes of the Board of Trustees - 5 February 2015

Minutes of the Board meeting held on Thursday 5 February 2015


Mark Getty (in the Chair) 
Lance Batchelor
Gautam Dalal
Professor Dexter Dalwood
Lady Heseltine
Sir Michael Hintze
Professor Anya Hurlbert
Hannah Rothschild
Charles Sebag-Montefiore
Monisha Shah
John Singer
Caroline Thomson


Lord King of Lothbury
John Nelson

In attendance

Dr Nicholas Penny - Director (except for part of item 7)
Dr Susan Foister - Director of Public Engagement and Deputy Director (except for part of item 7)
Dr Ashok Roy - Director of Collections (except for part of item 7)
Chris Walker - Director of Finance and Operations (except for items 1-6, part of item 7)
Kate Howe - Secretary to the Board and Legal Counsel
Larry Keith - Head of Conservation and Keeper (items 1, 3 and 4)
Caroline Campbell - Curator of Italian Paintings before 1500 and Interim Head of Curatorial (items 1, 3 and 4)
Letizia Treves - Curator of Italian and Spanish Paintings1600-1800 (item 1)
Chris Riopelle - Curator of Post 1800 Paintings (item 1)
RoseMarie Loft - Head of Human Resources (item 7, part)
Andy Baxter - Operations Manager    (item 7, part)
Jane Knowles - Head of Exhibitions (item 8)

1. Pictures for treatment

The Board saw Saint Gregory the Great with Saints Ignatius and Francis Xavier by Guercino (NG6622) and Dead Christ Supported by Two Angels, Italian (NG219) and approved them as ready to go back on display. The Board also saw and approved the treatment proposed for The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Guercino (NG6646), Portrait of Govaert van Surpele (?) and his Wife by Jordaens (NG6293) and The Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Jerome by Parmigianino (NG33).

2. Declarations of interest

There were no declarations of interest.

3. Minutes of 27 November 2014 and matters arising

The Board approved the Minutes of 27 November 2014 subject to minor amendments and the Chairman was authorised to sign them as a true record of the meeting. 

There were no matters arising.  

4. Director’s report, events and visitor numbers

The Director’s report was noted.

Information has been excluded under s 31 and s 43 FOI 2000.

The Director reported on the donation by the Sackler Trust of over £1million in support of the Gallery’s schools programme and the Board expressed their gratitude for this generous gift.

There was a discussion of exhibition visitor numbers and associated trading performance and it was suggested that a representative of the National Gallery Company should be invited to board meetings when exhibition reports and planning were being discussed.

5. VSS and Security Update

The Head of Operations reported on the PCS strike which was in progress. The Head of Human Resources reported on a meeting with the PCS union at ACAS the previous week and confirmed that further meetings were due to take place.

She reported that the Gallery had made clear to PCS that it was prepared to consider the results of external tenders alongside any alternative in-house solution to the Gallery's financial and service challenges which might be prepared by PCS for consideration by the evaluation panel, in the same timescale as that offered to external suppliers and on an equal basis.

There was tabled to the meeting copies of a letter from the Assistant General Secretary of PCS to the Board, which was discussed. The Chairman was authorised to respond on the Board’s behalf, making clear that the Board fully supported the approach which the management of the Gallery had taken and was taking to proposed outsourcing. There was also delivered to the Board a petition signed by members of the Gallery staff and a petition organised by the 38 Degrees organisation; it was agreed that the Chairman should acknowledge the staff petition on the Board’s behalf. 

Information has been excluded under s 36 FOI 2000.

6. Education strategy

The Head of Education presented the proposed Education strategy to the Board.

In relation to the structure of the department, she reminded the Board that she had taken up the post of Head of Education the previous June, and that other heads of functions within the department had been in post only since September; the post of Young People’s Programmer remained to be filled. The Department combined understanding of the collection with educational expertise and understanding of the Gallery’s visitors; this was the core expertise which the department contributed to the institution.

She outlined the education department’s ambition to share its expertise and experience with five categories of audience, namely early years, families, schools and teachers, young people, and adults. In relation to the current delivery by the department, she said that young people were least well served by the Gallery (compared with the other categories). Also, in terms of schools visits, although numbers were high, there was a high preponderance of primary school (as opposed to secondary school) visits.

Turning to the proposed model for education practice in the Gallery, she said that the ambition was to create a mixed model of delivery, involving facilitated learning and self-directed learning, both on and off site. As a first step the Gallery was embarking on a process of consultation with teachers, which should be completed by September. Within three years, the ambition of the Gallery included achieving a shift in the demographic makeup of those using the learning programmes onsite; the making available of the Gallery’s collection digitally to secondary schools across the country; the making available of the adult learning programme to a wider range of needs and the launch of a young people’s programme.

The Board raised the question of whether more resources would be required to deliver the proposed strategy; the  Head of Education confirmed that this was not the case.

The Board welcomed and endorsed the strategic direction proposed and asked that in due course a more detailed iteration of the department’s plans should be brought back to them to enable them better to understand what the changes would mean in practice, and the specific measures proposed against which progress would be measured.

7. Conservation strategy

The Head of Conservation presented the conservation strategy to the Board.

He emphasised that much of the Gallery’s conservation function was concerned with an ongoing process of invigilation, monitoring and application of best practice processes and procedures which were not project based. The Gallery’s programme of major conservation treatments sat alongside this work.

He reminded the Board of the role of Conservation Department staff in relation to preventative conservation (including controls in relation to light levels and light exposure, internal climate, pests, packing and transport, and mechanical shock and vibration); regular inspection of the paintings within the collection (at least twice a year for every painting and more regularly for fragile works); and loans and transport (including determining fitness of paintings to travel, condition reporting in the course of loans out, acting as couriers for key loans, and advising in relation to monitoring of environmental conditions at borrowing institutions).

He outlined the determining factors for prioritising conservation treatments, emphasising that any remedial repair work required to ensure the preservation of a work would be prioritised over other treatments, which were concerned with aesthetic improvement and to support research activity or exhibition activities. All conservation treatments were designed to be reversible as far as possible and, except in case of emergency, all treatments were approved in advance by the Gallery Board.

The Board welcomed and endorsed the strategy. There was a discussion of how the public could be better informed about the conservation work of the Gallery; the Head of Conservation said that the treatment which the Board had, earlier in the meeting, approved for The Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Jerome by Parmigianino (NG33) was to be made the subject of a special website feature, to bring the conservation process to a wider audience.

There was a discussion in relation to the length of time which major treatments took to complete; the costs of restoration (including the staff costs of the conservators working on the painting); and the need to maintain staffing levels and ensure continued professional development of staff within the department to enable it to continue to function as an international centre of excellence.

8. Science strategy and report from the Scientific Consultative Group

The Head of Science presented the science strategy to the Board. She drew attention to the Scientific Department’s chief responsibilities for providing scientific advice and developing research which contributed to the care of the collection in many ways, including research in relation to conservation and restoration, and research informing decisions on environment and display. She emphasised that the Gallery was and had long been a world leader in relation to this type of interdisciplinary research.

She outlined key areas of work of the department in relation to preventative conservation; scientific analysis and research in support of conservation work at the Gallery; technical investigation of the collection, for historical research on materials and techniques; and work in relation to imaging including through improved imaging techniques. She also outlined the department’s strategy in relation to partnerships and collaborations, the securing of external funding and the dissemination of the Gallery’s scientific work, particularly through publication of the National Gallery Technical Bulletin.

Professor Hurlbert, Chair of the Scientific Consultative Group, commented on the success of the Scientific Department in securing external funding from the EU, from industry and from research councils; and drew attention to the fact that succession planning was of particular importance to the department, given its relatively small size.

The Board welcomed and endorsed the strategy and noted the abstracts of presentations made at the annual meeting of the Gallery’s Scientific Consultative Group.

9. Update on progress and plans in the Collections Directorate

The update on progress and plans in the Collections Directorate was presented by the Director of Collections and was noted by the Board.

10. Loans out

The Interim Head of Curatorial presented the loans paper and an addendum to the loans paper, which was tabled to the meeting. The Board approved all proposed loans out.

11. Exhibition report, Making Colour

The exhibition report was presented by the Head of Exhibitions and was noted by the Board. The Head of Collections highlighted the successful aspects of the exhibition, including visitor numbers, high levels of visitor satisfaction and the trialling by the Gallery of a multimedia guide and visitor trail. She also highlighted the very successful experiment in colour perception, in which 11,000 visitors had participated, and the results of which would be published and would be used to refine and improve the way in which the Gallery’s paintings would be displayed to the public in the future.

12. Management Accounts at 31 December 2014

The Board noted the management accounts to 31 December 2014.      

13. Committees of the Board

a. Report from the Chair of the Audit and Finance Committees
The Chair of the Audit and Finance Committees reported on discussions of the meetings earlier in the day. The Finance Committee had focussed particularly on scenario planning in anticipation of the next spending round.

b. Report from the Chair of the Development Committee
In the absence of the Chair of the Development Committee, the Chairman reported that the Committee members had agreed to sponsor the forthcoming 'Soundscapes' exhibition, and the Board expressed their appreciation of this generous gesture.

14. Appointments to the Board of the AFNGL

The Board approved the appointment of Lord King and the re-appointment of Mark Getty as Class A Directors of the American Friends of the National Gallery London, Inc.

15. 'The Death of Saint Benedict' by Lorenzo Monaco (L2)

The board noted the report in relation to this matter.

16. Any other business

There being no other business the Chairman declared the meeting closed.