Iwona Blazwick departs Whitechapel Gallery

Iwona Blazwick

Iwona Blazwick is to step down as director of the Whitechapel Gallery in London after two decades at the helm. Under her leadership she doubled the size of the institution. A 2009 capital project saw the gallery knocked through to the next-door former Whitechapel Library.

The expansion allowed for an annual new commission to run simultaneous solo or group exhibitions, with artists featured including Goshka Macuga (2009), Claire Barclay (2010), Josiah McElheny (2011), Giuseppe Penone (2012), Kader Attia (2013), Alicja Kwade (2016), Leonor Antunes (2017), Ulla von Brandenburg (2018), Carlos Bunga (2019), Nalini Malani (2020) and Simone Fattal (2021). Group exhibitions have included A Short History of Performance (2002-2005), Back to Black: Art, Cinema, and the Racial Imaginary (2005), Faces in the Crowd (2005), Adventures of the Black Square (2015), Electronic Superhighway (2016) and A Century of the Artist’s Studio (2022).

Blazwick, whose roles previously included Tate Modern and London’s ICA, also inaugurated the Max Mara Art Prize for Women in 2005, with winners including Andrea Büttner (2009-2011), Laure Prouvost (2011-2013) and Emma Talbot (2020-2022).

She said of her departure: ‘This has been an emotional decision because of the great love I have for Whitechapel Gallery, our exhibitors, audiences, colleagues and communities… as the gallery emerges from the pandemic in a strong financial position and with programmes admired and respected around the world, now seems a good time to hand over the reins!’

Blazwick will leave the Whitechapel in April but remain ‘emeritus curator’ through to 2023. The search for a replacement director will be conducted by gallery trustees Alex Sainsbury, David Dibosa, Ann Gallagher and Melanie Manchot.

Her departure comes after a sea change in London’s institutions, with Stefan Kalmar departing the Institute of Contemporary Arts last year, Zoé Whitley taking on the directorship of the Chisenhale in 2020, and Martin Clark arriving at Camden Arts Centre in 2017 after it had been led by Jenni Lomax for over thirty years.

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