Tate’s Board of Trustees today announced that Nicholas Serota will step down as Director of Tate next year.

The process of finding a new director will begin immediately and is being guided by a specially appointed committee of trustees and external advisers including senior artists.

Tate’s Chairman, Lord Browne said: “We have been privileged to have in Nicholas Serota one of the world’s greatest museum directors and a leader for the visual arts on a global stage. Under his leadership Tate has become a preeminent cultural organisation nationally and internationally and one of the most visited in the world. He has championed British art and artists throughout the world while at the same time ensuring that Tate has become a much loved, open and accessible institution for the public. He leaves Tate in a strong position on which to build for the future. We wish him well as he takes on new responsibilities which will be for the benefit of all the arts.”

Nicholas Serota said: “It has been an exciting challenge to work with successive Chairmen, trustees and groups of extremely talented colleagues to develop the role of Tate in the study, presentation and promotion of British, modern and international art. Over the past thirty years there has been a sea-change in public appreciation of the visual arts in this country. Tate is proud to have played a part in this transformation alongside other national and regional museums and the new galleries that have opened across the country in places like Walsall, Margate, Wakefield, Gateshead and Nottingham. Tate has always been fortunate to have enjoyed the support of artists and to have benefitted from the international acclaim for the work of British artists in recent years. I leave an institution that has the potential to reach broad audiences across the UK and abroad, through its own programmes, partnerships and online.”

Nicholas Serota is a champion of visual arts throughout the UK and abroad. During his 28 years at Tate, he has helped to make Tate an organisation respected throughout the world. It was his vision that led to the creation of Tate Modern and the redefinition of the original gallery at Millbank as Tate Britain. He led the creation of Tate St Ives and has also sought to strengthen the role of Tate as a national institution through the further development of Tate Liverpool in taking a leading part in the celebration of the city as European City of Culture in 2008 and by establishing partnerships with galleries across the country through the Plus Tate programme.

During his term the range of Tate’s collection has broadened to include photography and the geographical reach has been extended across the world, taking a more global view. The collection has also been strengthened by major acquisitions of historic British art, including Wright of Derby’s An Iron Forge 1772, Reynolds’s The Archers 1769, Turner’s Blue Rigi 1842 and Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831. Additions to the modern collection have included major works by Bacon, Beuys, Bourgeois, Brancusi, Duchamp, Horn, Mondrian, Richter and Twombly, amongst many others. The contemporary collection has been developed into one of the strongest in the world. He was instrumental in helping to secure the ARTIST ROOMS collection given to Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland by Anthony d’Offay as a collection to be shown across the UK. In the past ten years, he has curated some of Tate’s most acclaimed and popular exhibitions including Donald Judd, Howard Hodgkin, Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter and Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs.

He will take up the part-time role of Chairman of the Arts Council on 1 February 2017 and will continue at Tate until later in the year.

For press enquiries please contact Helen.Beeckmans@tate.org.uk or call +44(0)20 7887 8730.



Nicholas Serota was born in London in 1946. He studied History of Art at the University of Cambridge and the Courtauld Institute.

In 1969, he became Chairman of the new Young Friends of the Tate.

He joined the Arts Council of Great Britain’s Visual Arts Department as a regional art officer in 1970 and then worked as a curator at the Hayward Gallery. In 1973, aged 27, he was appointed director of the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford where he organised an important series of exhibitions including the first significant exhibition of works by Joseph Beuys in England.

In 1976, he became the Director of the Whitechapel Gallery. He spent twelve years at the gallery successfully completing a major redevelopment of the building and organising a series of seminal exhibitions, many by artists new to London audiences including Carl Andre, Eva Hesse, Anselm Kiefer, Jannis Kounellis, Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter and Frida Kahlo. He also presented early shows by artists including Antony Gormley and Tony Cragg.

In 1981 he co-curated, with Norman Rosenthal and Christos Joachimides, the major exhibition A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy in London.

In 1988 he succeeded Alan Bowness as Director of Tate. One of his first successes, in 1990, was to inaugurate a programme called ‘New Displays’ in which the central Duveen Galleries were restored and collection works were rotated on a regular basis to show different relationships between works. Works were brought out of storage and shown to the public, some for the first time in many years. Today, at any given time around 85% of the collection can be viewed by the public in the Prints and Drawings rooms at Tate Britain or in regularly rotating displays at Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives, in exhibitions in the UK and around the world. He also led the initiative to link the two London galleries by river, creating the Millbank pier and the Tate boat service.

Under his leadership, the Turner Prize was redefined as a showcase for emerging contemporary art and he was chairman of the judging panel for the Prize until 2007. The Prize has become the world’s preeminent art prize and is now held outside London every alternate year.

It was his vision which lead to the division of Tate’s collection and the creation of a new gallery of modern art for London in a conversion of the former Bankside Power Station. The formation of the National Lottery in 1994 created a source of public funding for the new gallery and Tate Modern became one of the landmark projects chosen to celebrate the Millennium. Tate received £50m towards the scheme and secured the remaining funds from a range of public and private sources. Tate Modern, which is now one of the most visited tourist attractions in the UK and the most popular gallery of modern art in the world, lies at the heart of a new quarter in London, changing the character of the Southbank and the city.

One of the great successes at Tate Modern has been the Turbine Hall installations originally supported by Unilever and now by Hyundai. These have attracted huge international attention and large audiences. Artists have included Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, Olafur Eliasson, Bruce Nauman, Doris Salcedo, Carsten Höller and Ai Weiwei.

Under his directorship Tate has seen a dramatic period of building expansion. The opening of Tate Liverpool in 1988 shortly preceded his arrival, but the gallery was extended in 1998. Successive projects have included Tate St Ives in 1993, the re-launch of the original Millbank gallery as Tate Britain in 2000 and its new development in 2013, the opening of Tate Modern in 2000 and its new development in 2016. An extension to Tate St Ives will open in 2017. The organisation’s development has also been extended into the digital realm with the introduction of the Tate website in 1998 which has gone on to win many awards.

The opening of the new development of Tate Modern in June this year was the most important new cultural building to open in the UK for almost 20 years. Created by architects Herzog & de Meuron, the new building adds 60% more display space to Tate Modern, enabling many recent additions to Tate’s collection to be unveiled for the first time.

Tate’s Collection has been strengthened by major acquisitions of historic British art, including Wright of Derby’s An Iron Forge 1772, Reynolds’s The Archers 1769, Turner’s Blue Rigi 1842 and Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows 1831. Additions to the modern collection have included major works by Abakanowicz, Bacon, Beuys, Bourgeois, Brancusi, Duchamp, Horn, Mondrian, Richter and Twombly, among many others. The contemporary collection has been developed into one of the strongest in the world. In the contemporary field there have been significant gifts including the de Botton Collection and ARTIST ROOMS, given to Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland by Anthony d’Offay as a collection to be shown across the UK. Gifts from artists have included works donated by Antony Gormley, David Hockney, Anish Kapoor, Ed Ruscha and Cy Twombly.

Since 2000, through a series of acquisitions committees focusing on different continents, Tate has been extending its reach across the world by expanding its Collection to areas outside Europe and North America, including the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Africa. Tate’s Latin American Acquisitions Committee (LAAC) was launched in 2002 and the Asia-Pacific Acquisitions Committee (APAC) was launched in 2007, the Middle East North Africa Acquisitions Committee (MENAAC) in 2009, the Photography Acquisitions Committee (PAC) in 2010 and the African Acquisitions Committee (AAC) in 2011. Tate’s North America Acquisitions Committee (NAAC) has been operating since 2001. In 2012, the South Asia Acquisitions Committee (SAAC) and the Russia & Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee (REEAC) were launched.

More recently Tate has also broadened its field of interest to include twentieth-century photography, film, performance and occasionally architecture.

In 2010, Serota was instrumental in launching the Plus Tate network of partner galleries and visual arts organisations using Tate’s collection and resources to strengthen the contemporary visual arts ecology across the UK. The network was extended in March 2015 and now Plus Tate comprises thirty-five cultural institutions including Tate, and is a powerful group enabling new collaboration and change. Through this network, Tate contributes its resources to a dynamic group of organisations committed to working with contemporary art and artists and audiences in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This expands Tate’s reach and increases public access to the national collection of British and international modern and contemporary art. Partners include organisations as far afield as Orkney, Cumbria, Derry-Londonderry, Cardiff, Middlesbrough, Penzance, Margate, Wakefield, Milton Keynes, Edinburgh and Llandudno.

He has curated and co-curated many successful exhibitions including in the last ten years Donald Judd, Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter, and Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibitions at Tate Modern, and the Howard Hodgkin exhibition at Tate Britain in 2006. His Walter Neurath Memorial Lecture Interpretation and Experience: The Dilemma of Museums of Modern Art was published in 1997.

In November 2000, he gave the Dimbleby Lecture in London.

In 1998, with Director of Programmes, Sandy Nairne, he initiated the recovery operation of two paintings by JMW Turner in Tate’s collection which had been stolen from an exhibition in Frankfurt in 1994. The paintings were recovered in 2000 and 2002.

He has been a member of the Visual Arts Advisory Committee of the British Council, a Trustee of the Architecture Foundation and a commissioner on the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.  He was a member of the Olympic Delivery Authority which was responsible for building the Olympic Park in East London for 2012. He is a member of the Executive Board of the BBC.

He was knighted in 1999 and appointed a Companion of Honour in 2013 for services to art.

Nicholas Serota has been the longest serving Tate Director to date, completing 28 years of service in 2016.