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Minutes of the Board of Trustees - March 2008

Meeting held Friday 7 March 2008


Peter Scott (Chairman)
Simon Burke
Professor David Ekserdjian
James Fenton
Lady Heseltine
Lord Kerr
Professor Mervyn King
Patricia Lankester
John Lessore
Lady Normanby
Jon Snow
Ranjit Sondhi


Mark Getty
Professor Dame Julia Higgins

In attendance

Michael Hintze
Dr Nicholas Penny (Director) not for item 2
Martin Wyld (Director of Conservation) not for item 2
Kate Howe (Secretary to the Board) for item 2
Christopher Riopelle (Curator of 19th-Century paintings) for items 4 and 10
Dr Susan Foister (Director of Collections) for item 5
Luke Syson (Curator of Italian Paintings 1460 - 1500) for items 5 and 6
Bruce Minty (Interim Director of Resources) for items 7 to 9
David Jaffé (Senior Curator) for items 10 and 11
Dillian Gordon (Curator of Italian paintings before 1460) for item 10
Jill Dunkerton (Restorer) for item 10

The Chairman welcomed to the Board for their first meetings Lady Heseltine, who had been appointed to the Board with effect from 6 March 2008, and Michael Hintze, whose appointment to the Board would take effect from 1 April 2008. The Chairman said that this would be the last Board meeting of Jon Snow; the Board thanked him for his service to the Gallery.

Minutes of the last meeting and matters arising

1. The Board approved the minutes of the meeting held on 8 February 2008. They were later signed by the Chairman.

Matters arising: The Director confirmed that a letter had been sent to the Secretary of State acknowledging the very satisfactory outcome of the CSR settlement.

In relation to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Board agreed, after discussion, that the Gallery should retain the present arrangement, under which internal reviews of refusals to disclose information were carried out by the Director of Collections, as the Gallery’s FOI champion.

Information has been excluded under s 43 FOI 2000.

Selection of next Chairman

2. The Board agreed the process for selecting the next Chairman, to be conducted immediately after the April Board meeting. They agreed that the appointment would be for an initial term of three years from 11 August 2008 and that the person selected would be appointed as an additional member of the Nominations Committee with immediate effect.

Director’s report

3. The Director reported on poor visitor numbers but very high visitor satisfaction for the Pompeo Batoni exhibition; consideration would be given to additional publicity.

The Director reported on the McMaster report on Supporting Excellence in the Arts and outlined the form of a proposed response to be sent to DCMS in due course.

The Director reported that he had been asked by DCMS to identify the individual who would deputise for him as Director and Accounting Officer in the event of his prolonged absence from the Gallery and was proposing that the Director of Conservation, with his recent experience as Acting Director, should be named for this role: the Board concurred with this proposal.

The Director reported that the anticipated article by Dr Birgit Schwarz in relation to the provenance of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s 'Cupid complaining to Venus' had now appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 25 February. Unfortunately the article did not throw light on the pre-war ownership of the painting and suggestions were made as to avenues which might be pursued in order to obtain further information. The Board asked to be provided with copies of the article. The Chairman agreed that there was no objection to James Fenton writing an article on the subject, for publication, using information which was in the public domain, provided that his identity as a Trustee was disclosed on the face of the article.

Proposed acquisition

4. The Board was shown 'Straw Weaver at Settignano (Bigherinaja Settingnano)' by Telemaco Signorini, which had been generously offered to the Gallery as a gift. The Board agreed to accept the painting as an addition to the Collection, and expressed its grateful thanks to the donor.

Renaissance Siena Art for a City, exhibition report

5. The Director of Collections presented the report on this exhibition, and confirmed that the exhibition had ultimately attracted 10,000 more visitors than had been budgeted for.

The Board welcomed the ambition and scope of this exhibition, but noted that the budget for this exhibition at the beginning of the financial year had anticipated a deficit; although this had been reduced by the securing of sponsorship, they expressed some concern about the ultimate level of deficit.

The Board also emphasised the importance of securing sponsorship at an early stage in the planning of exhibitions. It was noted that the Exhibitions Future Financial planning paper, approved by the Board in December 2007, provided for the subsidising of less financially successful exhibitions by those that were more profitable.

The Director expressed his intention of changing the format of future exhibition reports, in part to make them shorter, while retaining all financial information. The Board welcomed this suggestion.

Loan fees for exhibitions

6. Information has been excluded under s 43 FOI 2000.

Minutes of meetings of the Board

7. The Minutes of the meetings of the Audit and Finance Committees on 24 January and the Minutes of the meeting of the Trust Funds Investment committee on 22 February were noted. The Chairman of the Audit Committee reported on a modification to the Trustees’ Conflict of interest policy, proposed by the external auditors.

The Chairman asked Trustees to put forward proposed names for consideration for membership of the Trust Funds Investment Committee.

Terms of reference for Committees of the Board

8. The Board approved the amended terms of reference of the Audit, Finance and Trust Funds Investment Committees and asked that terms of reference of formal sub-committees of the Board be brought to them for review every three years.

Quarterly management report

9. The Board considered the quarterly management report, which had not yet been considered by the Finance Committee. The Interim Director of Resources confirmed that there was likely to be a surplus at the year end, in part attributable to underspend on staff (due to a number of current vacancies) and in part to the absence of purchases of paintings during the year.

Pictures for treatment

10. The Board agreed that 'The Virgin and Child' by Lorenzo di Credi (NG593) and 'Portrait of Armand Gérôme' by Jean-Léon Gérôme(NG3251) were ready to go back on display following treatment.

The Board approved the treatment proposed for 'The Virgin and Child', Italian, Umbrian (NG 6572); 'The Man of Sorrows', Italian, Umbrian (NG 6573); 'A Lady teaching a Child to read, and a Child playing with a Dog (‘La Maîtresse d’école’)' by Caspar Netscher (NG844); 'Portrait of a Lady' by Caspar Netscher (NG 4790); 'Birds ,Butterflies and a Frog among Plants and Fungi' by Melchior d’Hondecoeter (NG 1222) and 'Christ Crowned with Thorns' attributed to Lo Spagna (NG691). The Board asked to see NG 691 and NG 844 again during the course of cleaning.

Loans out

11. The Board noted the report on loans out, including a tabled Addendum.

Picture movements

12. The Board noted the report on picture movements.

Any other Business

13. The Chairman reported to the Board the recent death of Palmer Baker, former Treasurer of the American Friends of the National Gallery. The Board conveyed their sympathy to his family.

Copies of previous Board minutes can be obtained from the Libraries and Archive department.

Confidential and sensitive information has been excluded from these published minutes in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Read our Freedom of Information Policy