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National Galleries of Scotland unveils new director-general


Anne Lyden will become the first woman to lead the organisation. 

National Galleries of Scotland has announced the appointment of Anne Lyden as its new director-general. 

Bringing a wealth of experience, most recently as interim co-director of collection and research, Lyden will be the first female director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland in its history. 

Current director-general, Sir John Leighton, will step down on December 31 following a 17-year tenure and Lyden will take up the role on January 1, 2024.

Anne Lyden, director-general designate of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: “I am looking forward to this incredible opportunity to lead the National Galleries of Scotland in the next chapter of its impressive history.

“It is my great privilege to continue the excellent work led by Sir John and colleagues over the years, most recently the success of the new Scottish galleries at the National. I am eager to continue my work with Trustees, colleagues, community partners, audiences, artists, and supporters in realising our plans for the future including The Art Works, our new collections facility in North Edinburgh. 

“Having worked with the national collection and a wide range of colleagues over the last ten years, I am delighted to continue this experience of making art accessible to everyone.”

The National Galleries of Scotland is home to Scotland’s superb art collection, with three galleries in Edinburgh. 

At the National, Modern and Portrait galleries visitors can discover treasures from Botticelli to Titian, the very best modern art, famous faces and contemporary portraits of pop culture icons, and the largest collection of Scottish art in the world.

 As well as conserving and researching the national collection, the National Galleries of Scotland is committed to reaching the widest possible audience through an active programme, including partnerships across Scotland, the UK and abroad, as well as online.  

As director-general, Lyden will work with the National Galleries of Scotland board of trustees, leadership team, colleagues across the organisation, and a great many donors and stakeholders to make art work for everyone.

Sir John Leighton, outgoing director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: “Anne Lyden is a highly talented curator and leader with a strong commitment to inclusion and diversity. 

“She has a compelling vision of the benefits that access to great art can achieve in these volatile times and is the right person to drive forward the National Galleries’ commitment to bringing world-class art to the widest possible audience.”

Born in West Dunbartonshire, Anne Lyden grew up in Clydebank and studied History of Art at the University of Glasgow, and Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. 

She held various curatorial positions at the J.Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where she worked for 18 years (1995-2013) latterly in the role of associate curator before joining the National Galleries of Scotland. 

As international photography curator (2013-2019) and then chief curator, Photography (2019-2022), Lyden curated numerous exhibitions including Coming Clean: Graham Macindoe (2017), A Perfect Chemistry: Photographs by Hill & Adamson (2017), and ARTIST ROOMS—Self Evidence: Photographs by Woodman, Arbus and Mapplethorpe (2019). 

In 2022, she became interim co-director of collection and research where she led a directorate, overseeing the public programme across three sites and building on several research initiatives to widen accessibility and representation within the collection. 

Author of numerous publications, Lyden has written widely on the subject of photography and art.

The process of recruiting the new director-general began earlier this year and was led by the chair of the National Galleries of Scotland board of trustees, Benny Higgins, and a committee of trustees.

Benny Higgins, chair of National Galleries of Scotland board of trustees, said: “I am thrilled that we have appointed Anne Lyden as our new Director-General. Anne brings a strong understanding of the national collection and our talented people, together with extensive international experience.  

“Over the past few months, we embarked on a rigorous search to find our next Director-General, resulting in us speaking to many people across the UK and internationally. 

“Following a thorough recruitment process, we know we have the right person to lead the National Galleries of Scotland into the future.  

“Anne’s strong personal values and leadership style, coupled with her knowledge of art, will see us deliver on our strategic commitments and I am looking forward to working with her.”



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