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Minutes of the Board of Trustees - November 2006

Meeting held Friday 10 November 2006 

Minutes of the last meeting and matters arising

1. The Board approved the minutes of the meeting held on 6 October 2006 which were then signed by the Chairman.

Matters arising:

Minute 9, AFNGL annual meeting in New York: the Chairman reported that funds held by AFNGL had been well invested, due to the wise supervision of the Investment Committee. The AFNGL Board, in agreement with the Gallery and in accordance with the advice of their legal counsel, had approved the change to the status “publicly supported charity” as the one most likely to suit AFNGL in the future.  AFNGL already qualified for this status as they were currently receiving at least 14% of their annual income from the public but it would be desirable to increase this figure by stepping up fund-raising efforts.  The new Head of Development, Sarah Ward, was in New York discussing future strategy with the AFNGL administrator over there.  Suggestions from Trustees about who might be able to help with fund-raising would be most welcome.

Director’s report, events and visitor figures

2. RIBA special awards: the Director reported on the award-winning success of the East Wing project, which was highly regarded among architects.

'Manet to Picasso':  this remained very popular, with visitors apparently unusually absorbed in the pictures, which suggested there might be lessons to be learnt for the presentation of other parts of the permanent collection. 

Exhibitions:  'Velázquez:' this was going very well with ticketing and queuing  arrangements working smoothly.  Estimated visitor numbers had been very optimistic but might be reached with extended opening hours in the final weeks.  'Cézanne in Britain 'was also being very well attended.

Visitor figures: October visitor figures had been the second highest ever for October.

Nominations Committee

3. The Board approved the proposed membership of the Nominations Committee as follows:
  Mr Peter Scott as chairman 'ex officio'
  Professor David Ekserdjian
  Professor Julia Higgins
  Professor Mervyn King
  Lady Normanby.
The Board approved the working basis of the Committee as set out in the tabled paper. 


4. (a) Report on 'Rebels and Martyrs'
The Board noted the report.
In the absence of the Chairman of the Development Committee, the Chairman reported his view that, due largely to their prime location on Trafalgar Square, the Sainsbury Wing temporary exhibition galleries were a valuable asset which required a carefully planned exhibition programme to realise their potential, including, if possible, at least two exhibitions a year with guaranteed popular and fund-raising appeal.  While some Trustees shared his concern about the balance of the programme in future years, others questioned whether an annual programme to include two ‘blockbuster’ exhibitions was sustainable or desirable and suggested that the issue be considered in the context of the overall financial position.  The Director said that, at the moment, the Gallery’s exhibitions were seen very much as designed to further the Gallery’s institutional and educational purposes, to illuminate the collection, widening access to and understanding of it and its context, and to present the results of the research and other activities of Gallery staff.     

(b) Exhibition finance and attendance presentation
The Director of Resources gave a presentation showing how the present aims of the exhibition programme to balance artistic quality, academic content,  audience appeal and access with financial aims had been achieved over the past ten years; how attendance compared with forecasts; the effect of adjustments in ticket prices on different sections of the public; which kinds of exhibition were most successful in each of the Gallery’s exhibition spaces; and how very popular exhibitions had so far succeeded in balancing the overall budget although with transport and insurance costs rising this might become more difficult to achieve.
Trustees asked about catalogue pricing, about policy on charging in other Gallery spaces, currently under review; and about the impact of a “Friends” organisation in this context.  The Director said that a “Friends” organisation was acknowledged to be useful for promotion and marketing.  Its advantages and disadvantages for the Gallery were reviewed periodically and would no doubt soon again be on the agenda for the new Head of Development.           

(c) Exhibition strategy and programme
The Board noted the strategy paper and future programme.
Some Trustees felt exhibitions should be designed more to capture the imagination of the public, chosen neither with exclusively academic nor financial considerations in mind, but to interest and engage those seeking to experience art in London. The Chairman suggested that more research was needed to discover why people did or did not come to exhibitions and what they gained from them. 
Trustees suggested that the programme for the year of the Olympics and beyond might be strengthened and made a number of alternative proposals, which would be taken into consideration in future discussions as would the need to take into account the value of the Sainsbury Wing galleries as an asset.
It was agreed that exhibitions would be part of the wider discussion at the Board meeting in February the following year. 

Potential acquisition

Guercino, 'The Cumaean Sibyl with a Putto  '(L 592)

The Director reported on recent negotiations with the owner. 
The Board agreed to the purchase of the painting, through private treaty sale, subject to the contract being approved by the Chairman. Payment would be made in instalments, the first to be paid in January 2007, to be funded either by a grant from the National Gallery Trust or from the Trust Funds pool.


Picture research proposal

6. Lucas Cranach the Elder, 'Cupid complaining to Venus' (NG 6344)

The Board approved the proposal to increase the information on the website to include the information that the picture was “understood to have been chosen in 1945 by Mrs Patricia Lochridge Hartwell, an American war correspondent, from premises controlled by American armed forces in Germany” in an attempt to discover more about its provenance. 

Loan requests

Professor Ekserdjian declared a possible conflict of interest arising from this item relating to his curatorship of the planned Correggio exhibition and took no part in the discussion nor the resulting decisions.

7. The Board agreed to the loan requests, including those with qualifications, as put forward in the Senior Curator’s paper; endorsed the Gallery’s decisions to decline to lend; and noted the loan of a picture (L 881) currently on loan to the Gallery to the Palazzo Reale in Genoa from March to June 2007.

Quarterly management report

8. The Board noted the quarterly management report.

Pictures for treatment

9. The Board agreed that 'The Virgin and Child enthroned, with Four Angels' by Quinten Massys (NG 6282) was ready to go back on show.  Curators and conservators undertook to consider adding information about recent treatment to labels of pictures returning to display in this way.
The Board approved the treatment proposed for:
'Saint Bavo about to receive the Monastic Habit at Ghent' by Peter Paul Rubens (NG 57)
'Portrait of Anna Maria van Schurman 'by Jan Lievens (NG 1095)
'Delaware Water Gap' by George Inness the Elder (NG 4998)
'The Virgin and Child' by Lorenzo di Credi (NG 593) and
'The Virgin and Child with Two Angels, 'Italian, Florentine (NG 2508).

NG 57 would involve preliminary investigation of the panels and would be shown to the Board again before decisions were made about the best way forward.

Picture movements

10. The Board noted the report on picture movements.

Any other business

11. The Board joined the Chairman in expressing their regret at the departure of the Director of Administration from the Gallery and their heartfelt gratitude to him for his wise advice and help over the past twelve years.

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