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Minutes of the Board of Trustees – May 2011

Minutes of the Board meeting held on Thursday 12 May 2011


Mark Getty, Chairman
Gautam Dalal
Dexter Dalwood
Professor David Ekserdjian
Lady Heseltine
Michael Hintze
Professor Anya Hurlbert
Patricia Lankester
John Nelson
Lady Normanby
Hannah Rothschild


Lance Batchelor
Caroline Thomson

In attendance

Dr Nicholas Penny (Director) not for item 11
Dr Susan Foister (Deputy Director) not for item 11
Kate Howe (Secretary to the Board)     
David Jaffe (Senior Curator) items 1-4
Larry Keith (Director of Conservation) items 1-4
Dr Ashok Roy (Director of Science) items 1-4
Jill Dunkerton (Conservator) item 1
Britta New (Conservator) item 1
Greg Perry (Director of Operations and Administration) items 7 and 8
Dawn Herlihy (Head of Human Resources) item 7

Prior to the formal business of the meeting, The Board met in the absence of the Chairman and all staff except for the Secretary to the Board to discuss issues arising from the impending expiry of the Chairman’s current term of office in August 2011.

Pictures for treatment

1. The Board saw An English Vessel and a Man-of-War in a Rough Sea off a Coast with Tall Cliffs by Ludolf Bakhuizen (NG819) and The Virgin and Child in an Apse with Two Angels after Robert Campin ( NG2608) following completion of treatment, and approved them both as ready to go back on display.

In relation to the painting by Campin, the Director of Collections reminded the Board of the appearance of the painting before cleaning and said that the painting had been brought back to life. She said that it was one of about 60 versions of this painting, and following completion of treatment could be seen to be one of the most important. It would initially hang in Room 56. She drew attention to the original frame.

The Board also saw the Baptism Altarpiece by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini (NG579.1-5) which the Director of Conservation confirmed was (unusually) being shown to them slightly in advance of completion of treatment, which would not be finished  for another week or so.  It was being shown to the Board now to allow the painting to be installed in the Gallery’s 'Devotion by Design' exhibition before the next Board meeting. The Director of Conservation drew attention to the 19th Century frame in which the painting was now being shown. The Board agreed that the painting should go back on display once treatment was complete.

Declarations of interest

2. Hannah Rothschild declared she had some involvement as a Trustee of the Rothschild Foundation in proposed arrangements in relation to Auckland Castle, reported to the Board for information as part of the Director’s report.

John Nelson said that he should have declared an interest at the meeting on 24th March in item 13 of the Agenda, since he sat on the Chair’s Advisory panel at KPMG.

Loans out

3. The Board approved all proposed loans from the Collection.

Impact of loans and picture movements on Old Master Paintings

4. The Director of Science presented the report to the Board and confirmed that its purpose was to brief the Board on risks arising from the sending of paintings out on loan. One of the issues about which concerns had in the past been expressed related to the possible impact of vibration on Old Master paintings. The Director of Science said that while vibration could be measured, the calculation of its impact on Old Master paintings remained an inexact science. Nevertheless he hoped the paper would re-assure the Board that appropriate and sufficient safeguards were in place to mitigate the risks of sending paintings out on loan. It was confirmed that one of the most important of these was that the Director of Conservation had, in the case of any proposed loan, to confirm whether the painting was in his view “fit to travel”.

There was a discussion of the use and limitations of portable shock loggers, which could be attached to the inner skin of the case in which paintings travelled.  It was confirmed that these were not in constant use, since they were not suited to all types of packing cases. The Scientist Trustee suggested that loggers should be used wherever possible to provide accumulation of data over a long period, which would be useful both in relation to the history of individual paintings, but also in providing epidemiological data.

There was a discussion of the use of Microclimate cases which the Director of Conservation confirmed the Gallery required to be used on loans out of nearly all panel paintings.

The Board asked how often the Gallery’s paintings had suffered from one off incidents of major damage while on loan. It was confirmed that this had been very rare in the case of Gallery paintings, because of the stringent requirements which the Gallery imposed.

Attention was drawn to proposals from some parts of the museums and galleries sector to require less stringent standards in relation to controls over humidity and light in institutions to which the Gallery lent paintings. There were also proposals from those quarters that paintings on loan need not always be accompanied by a courier. As far as the Gallery’s current practice was concerned, Gallery paintings going out on loan were accompanied by one of the Gallery’s own trained couriers, who were drawn from areas such as the conservation, art handling, curatorial and registrars departments.

It was confirmed to the Board that following any courier trip a questionnaire was completed, and that a database of incidents at particular venues was maintained, so that the Gallery could easily check the record of borrowing institutions, when a new loan was requested. Exceptional incidents were reported to the Board.

The Board agreed that in relation to loans made by the Gallery, there should be no relaxation or modification of environmental specifications for borrowing institutions (including those pertaining to light levels and UV-content) unless such modification was approved by the Gallery’s Director of Conservation. The Board also agreed that the Gallery’s policy should continue to be that a trained Gallery courier would accompany any loan out from the Gallery; the only exception should be where a painting was accompanied by a trained courier from a sister institution.

Professor Ekserdjian asked for confirmation that the Gallery would not expect to borrow any painting which was clearly not fit to travel; it was confirmed that the Gallery would regard it as irresponsible to do so.

Minutes of 24th March and matters arising

5. The Board approved the minutes of 24th March subject to minor amendments.

Information has been excluded under s 36 FOI 2000.

It was confirmed to the Board that the agreement in relation to the provision of Gallery images for the “Your Paintings” website project had been signed. The Gallery was providing the venue for the press launch of the project on 23 June.

In relation to item 13 of the minutes, it was reported that no further action was required to be taken.

Director’s report, events and visitor numbers

6. The Board noted the Director’s report.

The Director updated the Board on discussions with the National Portrait Gallery in relation to use of space in the East Wing and said a full report with proposals for approval would be brought to the July Board.

Information has been excluded under s 36 and s 43 FOI 2000.

There was a discussion of visitor numbers which had exceeded 5 million over the past year, and which the Director reported were the highest ever. He noted that in the present case the exceptional numbers could not be readily explained by reference to the exhibition programme.
There was a discussion concerning the ArtStart space in the Sainsbury Wing of the Gallery, which, for a trial period, it was proposed should be given over to use by art schools and groups of students visiting the Gallery. The Director confirmed that the space had been very under-utilised by visitors in recent years, and that the bulk of those wanting to make use of the ArtStart facility did so in the Espresso Bar area of the Wilkins Building.

The Director drew to the attention of the Board the fact that the Gallery’s Education Department had won the National Campaign for Drawing Trailblazers award. The Gallery’s event had been hailed by the Campaign as outstanding and exemplary.

Follow up to Comprehensive spending review

7. The Board noted the report on the follow up to the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Head of Human Resources updated the Board in relation to the current status of the Voluntary Exit scheme. She confirmed that the scheme completed on 4th May and that 17 members of staff would be leaving the Gallery under the terms of the scheme.

The Head of Human Resources confirmed that the next step would be to give consideration to the work and staffing structure mostly in areas where insufficient numbers of staff had expressed an interest in Voluntary Exit. Any proposals for voluntary redundancy in these areas would be subject to consultation but prior to commencing consultation it was necessary to obtain Cabinet Office approval to a Voluntary Redundancy Scheme. It was confirmed to the Board that the Gallery had obtained Cabinet Office approval, as provided for within the Civil Service compensation scheme, to exercise discretion and pay compensation for Voluntary Redundancy at the same level as that paid for Voluntary Exit. 

Information has been excluded under s 36 FOI 2000

Minutes of Committees of the Board

8. The Board noted the Minutes of the meetings of the Audit and Finance Committees on 24th March.

The Chair of the Audit Committee referred to the Committees discussion of FRS 30, which required the Gallery to show on its balance sheet paintings acquired since April 2001.  He confirmed that because, in the view of the Committee, this gave a misleading view of the nature of the collection (showing as it did just a very small percentage of the collection) the Committee had considered de-recognising those paintings currently shown on the Gallery’s balance sheet. It had however been agreed that since this would result in the accounts being qualified, the Gallery should not adopt this course.

It was confirmed to the Board that the annual audit was on course, and that the Audit Committee would meet in early July to approve the annual accounts. As part of the annual report, the Head of Security would attend the meeting of the Audit Committee. 

A question was raised by the Board about the degree to which the full Board should consider the risk register. It was proposed that the summary of key risks, as produced to the Audit Committee at all their meetings, should be appended to the minutes of that committee when they came to the board.  In addition, the board agreed that discussion of the risk register should appear on the main Board Agenda twice a year. 

The Board noted the minutes of the Trust Fund Investment Committee. The Chairman reported that the Committee were satisfied with the performance of the investment managers. Information has been excluded under S36 FOI 2000.

Board effectiveness survey

9. The Board approved the proposed process for the carrying out of a Board effectiveness survey and the Chairman asked all members of the Board to return their questionnaires to the Board Secretary within the specified time frame.

Trustees introduction to the National Gallery review

10. The Trustees’ introduction to the National Gallery review was approved subject to minor amendments.

Director’s performance objectives

11. The Board considered and approved the Director’s proposed performance objectives for the year 2011-12 subject to some amendments. The Chairman would discuss these with the Director.

Any other business

12. A member of the board reported requests received that the National Café should have a WiFi facility.

A member of the Board suggested that consideration should be given to reintroducing a project similar to the “Artists Eye”, where a contemporary artist had in the past been invited to make a personal selection of paintings from the collection, and proposed that virtual tours might be created around this concept.

There was a discussion of possible action to be taken by museums and galleries following the detainment of Ai Wei Wei. The Director would agree any action on the Gallery’s part with the Chairman. 

The Board recorded its sadness and regret at hearing of the death of Sir Denis Mahon, a past trustee and great supporter of the Gallery. The Director said that a memorial event would be held for Sir Denis on 21 June.

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

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.

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