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Minutes of the Board of Trustees - Thursday 28 January 2021

Minutes of the Board meeting held on Thursday 28 January 2021 at 2pm via Zoom


Lord Hall of Birkenhead (Chair)
Catherine Goodman
Katrin Henkel
Sir John Kingman
Rosemary Leith
David Marks
Tonya Nelson
Stuart Roden
Charles Sebag-Montefiore
John Singer
Professor Molly Stevens



In attendance

Dr Gabriele Finaldi - Director
Dr Caroline Campbell - Director of Collections and Research
Dr Susan Foister - Deputy Director
Paul Gray - Chief Operating Officer
Victoria Hayes - Secretary to the Board and Head of Governance
Andy Hibbert - Director of Finance
Chris Michaels - Director of Digital, Communications and Technology
Julie Molloy - Managing Director of National Gallery Company Limited
Anh Nguyen - Director of Development
Larry Keith - Head of Conservation and Keeper (for item 1)

1. Pictures for treatment

The Head of Conservation and Keeper joined the meeting from the conservation studio via Zoom.

1.1. The Board saw, following cleaning and restoration, Gainsborough’s 'Cornard Wood, near Sudbury, Suffolk' (NG925). The Head of Conservation and Keeper explained that during the relining of the picture the conservators had discovered that more of the image at the top and bottom of the painting existed, which had been lost when the canvas had been folded over. He said that the gain had transformed the picture. The Board approved the work as being ready to go back on display.

1.2. The Board also saw Luca Signorelli’s 'The Holy Family' (NG2488) which hadn’t been treated or cleaned since its acquisition. The Head of Conservation and Keeper said that the picture was an important part of the permanent display.

1.3. He showed the Board Pittoni’s 'The Nativity with God the Father and the Holy Ghost' (NG6279) and 'Mystic Figure of Christ', probably by Antonio Cicognara (NG3069), which he said was a contemplative painting which hadn’t been restored for 100 years and had become badly discoloured.

1.4. The Board approved the treatments proposed.

2. Declarations of interest

2.1. None.

3. Minutes of the meeting held on 26 November and matters arising

3.1. The Minutes were approved.

4. Loans out

4.1. The Director of Collections and Research presented the loans out paper. She said that there were many changes to exhibition schedules for all museums and galleries owing to the pandemic but that cooperation between galleries to honour commitments remained good and collaborative.

5. Potential acquisitions 

5.1. The Director showed the Board an image of Lovis Corinth’s 'Portrait of Dr Ferdinand Mainzer' (L1233) which has been on long loan to the Gallery since 2018. He explained that the painting had been accepted as an Acquisition in Lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government, but that the executors of the estate had not designated a preferred recipient and that the Gallery planned to make an application to the Acceptance in Lieu panel. The Board approved the Gallery making an application to the Acquisition in Lieu panel, and if successful, agreed that the Gallery accept the painting.

5.2. Information has been excluded under s.22, s36 and FOI 2000

6. Director’s report and a look at the year ahead

6.1. The Director gave his presentation. He said that the Gallery would be relying on a UK audience for some time and that digital audiences were steadily increasing.

6.2. He highlighted the exhibition 'Sensing the Unseen: Step into Gossaert’s 'Adoration'' which, although it could only open for a few days, had demonstrated how successfully a collaboration between a curator and the digital team could use new language to explore an old and well-loved picture.

6.3. He said that work on the One Gallery Accommodation Hub was progressing well and was on target to complete on time.

6.4. The Director said that the Gallery’s patron, HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall had visited the Gallery on 2 December.

6.5. Looking to the year ahead, the Director said that owing to the pandemic it was very difficult to plan. He said that he anticipated a gradual unlocking of the museum and galleries sector. He gave a presentation. The Chair congratulated the Director on what promised to be an exciting year.

7. National Gallery strategy 2021-2026

7.1. The Chair thanked the Executive Committee for the hard work that had gone into defining the strategy and said that the paper conveyed a good sense of how the Gallery planned to use its bicentenary year in 2024 and beyond, as well as re-defining the importance of the National Gallery. The Director gave a presentation. He said that the Gallery had been halfway through its previous strategy and was successfully attaining its targets but that Covid-19 had derailed it and that this strategy set out a fresh set of objectives.

7.2. The Chair invited each Trustee to comment. Overall Trustees were positive and enthusiastic about the strategy and found it energetic, imaginative and well balanced. They commented that it signalled the right message for the future and they supported the strategy.

7.3-7.5. Information had been excluded under s.22, s36 and s43 FOI 2000.

7.6. The Chair reiterated his thanks to the Executive Committee and asked that the strategy be worked into a form that could be published and shared with supporters. He asked that more detailed strategy papers be prepared, underpinning the overall strategy.

8. NG200 update on Welcome project

8.1. The Chief Operating Officer presented his paper and said that the name of the project had changed to NG200 following discussions in the Masterplan Committee. He said that the design competition would be launched on 16 February and that initial responses from stakeholders had been positive.

9. The Gallery across the Nation: National Strategy

9.1. The Deputy Director gave her presentation which was divided into the past, the present and the future. She said that one of the main aims of the strategy was to make the National Gallery better known across the nation, particularly as it approached its bicentenary year.

9.2. The Board were enthusiastic about the strategy and welcomed the ideas expressed in the paper.

9.3-9.6. Information had been excluded under s.22, s36 and s43 FOI 2000.

10. Report from the Digital Directorate

10.1. The Director of Digital, Communications and Technology presented his paper which he said provided the Board with an overview of all the work being done in his directorate.

11. Committees of the Board

11.1. The Board noted the Minutes of the Scientific Consultative Group, 23 November 2020. The Chair of the Scientific Consultative Group said that the Group met annually and that it was a vibrant, interactive meeting which gave good insight into all the work being done in the scientific department. She encouraged Trustees to join the next meeting.

11.2. The Board noted the Minutes of the Audit and Finance Committees of 8 December 2020. The Chair of the Audit Committee said that much work was being done on best practice for fire safety.

11.3. The Board noted the Minutes of the Masterplan Committee of 17 December 2020 and 12 January 2021.

11.4. The Chair of the Development Committee updated the Board on a meeting that had been held on 19 January.

12. Report from the Managing Director of the National Gallery Company 

12.1. The Managing Director of the National Gallery Company said that before the current lockdown, the Company had been trading well against the revised budget that she had presented in June. She said that exhibition attendance had been strong and sales in e-commerce were extremely good.

12.2-12.3. Information had been excluded under s43 FOI 2000

13. Management Accounts and Development Summary 

13.1. The Director of Finance presented the Summary.

13.2-13.4 Information has been excluded under s.22 and s.43 FOI 2000

14. Grant applications to the National Gallery Trust (NGT)

14.1. The grant applications were approved

15. Any other business

The Executive Committee left the meeting and there was a closed session of the Board, with the Director and the Secretary to the Board.

15.1. The Chair reported that the launch of the campaign to find three new Trustees was underway and that the role specifications had now been approved and DCMS were waiting for confirmation of an independent senior assessor to join the panel. He said that he hoped the campaign would launch imminently.

15.2. The Chair said that he was in discussion with the Chair of Tate to replace the Tate liaison Trustee.

15.3. Information had been excluded under s36 FOI 2000.