Skip to main content

Minutes of the Board of Trustees – September 2012

Minutes of the Board meeting held on Thursday 27 September 2012


Caroline Thomson (in the Chair)
Lance Batchelor
Gautam Dalal
Professor Dexter Dalwood 
Professor David Ekserdjian 
Lady Heseltine 
Michael Hintze 
Professor Anya Hurlbert
Patricia Lankester 
John Nelson 
Hannah Rothschild
Charles Sebag-Montefiore
John Singer


Mark Getty (Chairman)

In attendance

Dr Nicholas Penny (Director) 
Dr Susan Foister (Deputy Director) save for part of item 4 and for item 8
Kate Howe (Secretary to the Board)     
Larry Keith (Director of Conservation) items 1 to 3
Dawson Carr (Curator of Italian and Spanish Painting 1500-1800) item 1, part
Betsy Wieseman (Curator of Dutch Paintings) item 1, part
Jill Dunkerton (Restorer) item 1, part
Paul Ackroyd (Restorer) item 1, part
Morwenna Blewett (Assistant Restorer) item 1, part
Cathy Putz (Exhibitions Curator) item 6
Marika Spring (Head of Research) item 7
Alexis Chapman (Interim Head of Finance) item 9 (part) to 13 

In the absence of the Chairman, the Board invited Caroline Thomson to take the Chair.  

Pictures for treatment

1. The Board saw, following treatment, Christ In the House of Martha and Mary by Diego Velázquez (NG1375), presented by the Curator of Italian and Spanish Painting 1500-1800. They approved the painting as ready to go back on display. The Director told the Board, with regret, that this would be the last Board meeting attended by the Curator of Italian and Spanish Painting 1500-1800, who would be leaving the Gallery in early November. The Board expressed their warm appreciation for all that he had done for the Gallery.

The Board also saw, following treatment, A Beach Scene with Fishermen by Ludolf Bakhuizen (NG818), presented by the Curator of Dutch Paintings. The Curator of Dutch Paintings said that, following the treatment which had been carried out, she was looking forward to being able to display the painting on the main floor of the Gallery. The Board approved the painting as ready to go back on display. 

The Board also saw A Concert by Imitator of Titian (NG3) in the course of treatment, at the stage at which the old lining had been removed, and before the painting was re-lined. Two inscriptions had been revealed on the back of the painting, which were drawn to the attention of the Board.  

Declarations of interest

2. No interests were declared.

Loans out

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

Minutes of 19 July and matters arising

4. The Minutes were approved subject to one minor amendment and the Chair was authorised to sign them as a true record of the meeting. 

Information has been excluded under s43 FOI 2000.

The Deputy Director left the room for the discussion of the Director’s performance objectives for 2012-13. A revised set of objectives, which took account of the Board’s comments at the meeting on 19 July 2012, was tabled and approved by the Board. It was noted that the revised Acquisition strategy would come to the board for approval in November 2012.

Information has been excluded under s36 FOI 2000.

Director's report, events and visitor numbers

5. The Board noted the Director’s written report. The Director expanded on the report of his recent visit to China, which had been paid for by his hosts, who had also paid the Gallery a fee for the lectures he had delivered there.

The Director reported on his recent visit to Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery to see the exhibition (created in partnership with the National Gallery) entitled In pursuit of Art: Charles Eastlake’s Journey from Plymouth to the National Gallery, which he noted was a great success. He also reported on the current exhibition in the Gallery’s room 1 of Poussin’s 'Extreme Unction', which had been mounted by the Gallery to support the Fitzwilliam Museum’s campaign, run in conjunction with the Art Fund, to secure the painting for the nation. 

A member of the Board noted that Trustees had received a presentation in relation to the Gallery’s national strategy and plans in 2010 and requested an update, which it was agreed should be brought to the board in 2013. 

Information has been excluded under s43 and s36 FOI 2000 

Forward exhibition programme

6. The Exhibitions Curator presented the exhibition programme to 2016. She outlined the key priorities as being to deliver an exhibition programme which supports the Gallery’s key strategic objectives; which covers a variety of subject matter, showcasing  some less familiar artists as well as including major popular exhibitions; which is tightly financially managed and ensures the right collaborators are selected for each project; and which is distinguished from others by both its intellectual rigour and by using to best advantage the Gallery’s range of possible exhibition spaces. 

The Exhibitions Curator drew the Board’s particular attention to exhibitions scheduled for 2013, starting in the Spring with Barocci: Brilliance and Grace. She pointed out that for this exhibition the Gallery had succeeded in securing loans of an exceptional number of altarpieces. In the summer of 2013, the Gallery’s free exhibition would be Vermeer and Music. This exhibition would centre round the wonderful loan from English Heritage of Vermeer’s The Guitar Player and would also include the Gallery’s two Vermeer paintings; these would be displayed alongside musical instruments and song books from the 17th Century and the exhibition would also include live music. In the Autumn of 2013, the main exhibition would be The Portrait in Vienna 1900, for which the Gallery had already secured a number of paintings which were rarely available on loan.  

The Exhibitions Curator reminded the Board that the Gallery’s objective was that, from 2014, the exhibition programme should make a contribution of £500k net per annum to the Gallery’s income. There was a discussion of the financial projections, which the Exhibitions Curator said had been prepared on a prudent basis.

Information has been excluded under s 43 FOI 2000.

The Board noted that in some cases the audience projections were conservative. 

There was a discussion of the possibility of making films of exhibitions, which would enable those who missed an exhibition to view it on-line; it was noted that there were difficulties in getting lenders to agree to the creation of a film which would continue to be available after the exhibition closed, as distinct from the films which were shown during the run of the exhibition.

Information has been excluded under s43 FOI 2000.

The Board warmly welcomed the presentation and the proposed exhibition programme.

Research strategy

7. The Chair welcomed the Head of Research to her first meeting of the Board. The Head of Research presented to the Board the updated Research strategy which set out the Gallery’s ambitions and programmes for the next five years and which identified how the strategy would contribute the Gallery’s key strategic objectives.

There was a discussion with the Board of the manner in which the Research Strategy contributed to the public’s engagement with the Collection, in particular through the contribution to the Gallery’s exhibition programme. There was also a discussion of the Gallery’s ambitions and position as a global leader in the field of research into Old Master Paintings as reflected in the standing of the Gallery’s catalogues and the Technical Bulletin, which the Director confirmed was a world leader of its type. One member of the Board suggested that greater visibility should be given to the Gallery’s research role. Another asked whether the Gallery should be putting more of its detailed catalogue entries (and not merely abbreviated versions) on the Gallery website. It was confirmed that currently there were staffing capacity issues which would make this difficult to achieve, but that it was an ambition for the Gallery. 

Professor Hurlbert welcomed the Research strategy and stressed the importance of bringing together the research functions of the Curatorial, Scientific and Conservation departments and also underlined the importance to the Gallery of research into the areas of lighting and display. 

The research strategy was approved by the Board.

Board effectiveness survey 

8. The Board noted the summary of Trustees’ responses to the Board effectiveness survey questionnaire and approved the following recommendations made by the Director in response to those responses namely:-

  1. That the board should receive a presentation on audience segmentation and visitor experience, based on research which the Gallery commissioned; followed by periodic follow up reports in relation to this area
  2. That the Director’s report to the Board should in future include a short update on regional initiatives, arising out of the Gallery’s national strategy
  3. That the Board should receive regular updates on progress in relation to key strategies and planned outcomes
  4. That once a quarter they should hear from one of the senior management team on plans and progress in his or her Directorate
  5. That the Board should re-consider the policy on loans out in January 2013, in order to be reminded of the criteria against which loans out were recommended to the Board; that Trustees should continue to approve all loans out, but that discussion of recommendations should generally be restricted to those iconic paintings which the Gallery’s public generally expected to see on display.
  6. That the induction process for all new trustees should in future include, for  those who wanted it, sessions with one or more Curators to introduce that new trustee to the Gallery’s collection
  7. That in future, the reports from the Chairs of committees of the Board should include a brief oral report from the Chair of the Development committee, notwithstanding that this was not a formal sub-committee of the Board with delegated decision making functions. 

There was a discussion of the contribution which individual board members could make to the Gallery’s fundraising initiatives and it was agreed that the Director should consider with the Director of Public Affairs and Development the ways in which Trustees might contribute more to fundraising initiatives. This discussion would include consideration of the possible formation of a Fundraising committee which might assist the Development office with fundraising from individuals and trusts, in a similar way to that in which the Development committee assisted with corporate membership and sponsorship income. 

Committees of the Board


  • Nominations Committee: The Board noted the minutes of the Nominations committee meeting on 19 July and the report from the Committee. The Board approved the revised terms of reference of the committee, which took account of the revised OCPA Code which had come into force on 1 April 2012. 
  • Audit and Finance Committees: The Chair welcomed the Interim Head of Finance to her first meeting of the Board. The Chair of the Audit and Finance committees reported on the meetings of the committees which had taken place on the morning of 27th September.
    Information has been excluded under s 31 FOI 2000.

Quarterly management report 

10. The Interim Head of finance presented the quarterly management report to 30 June 2012 and also commented briefly on the financial position as it would stand at the end of the second quarter. She reported that, as at 30 September, there would be areas of under-spend arising from timing of expenditure which would need to be discussed with departments concerned; she would also be keeping a close watch on projected capital spend in the year. She reported on a recent meeting which she had attended, along with Finance Heads from other Museums and Galleries, with the DCMS Head of Finance and on potential implications for grant in aid of the pressures on departmental expenditure.

Grant applications to the AFNGL

11. The Board approved the making of the proposed grant applications to the American Friends of the National Gallery. 

Appointments to the Board of the AFNGL 

12. The Board approved the re-appointment of Christopher Gibbs and Mark Getty as Class A Directors of the AFNGL.  

Gifts of pre-eminent works of art to the nation

13. The Board noted the report on legislation introduced in the Finance Act 2012 giving tax relief on lifetime gifts to the nation of pre-eminent works of art, and there was a discussion of the possible impact on the Gallery. 

Any other business 

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

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