Tuesday 6 January 2015 

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and co-curator of last year’s hugely successful Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition at Tate Modern, has been appointed Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, it was announced today, Tuesday 6 January 2015.

The appointment by the Gallery’s Board of Trustees, which has been approved by the Prime Minister, was made following the resignation of current Director Sandy Nairne in June 2014. Nicholas Cullinan will take up his new post in spring 2015. 

Since joining The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York in early 2013, Dr Cullinan has taken an important role in developing a number of projects including the programme for the museum’s occupancy of the Whitney Museum of Art’s Marcel Breuer building in 2016 (following the Whitney’s move to another location), expanding and redisplaying the permanent collection and increasing the Modern and Contemporary Department’s base of supporters. At the Met, he organised the exhibitions Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa: The Venini Company, 1932-47 (2013); Amie Siegel: Provenance (2014); and devised and led, together with co-curator Andrea Bayer, one of the Met’s opening exhibitions at the Breuer building for March 2016. He has been responsible for a number of major works being acquired by the Met. Significant gifts he worked on include the donation to the Museum of forty-four pieces by Carlo Scarpa and fifty-seven works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, dedicated to African American artists.

Previously Curator of International Modern Art at Tate Modern (2007-2013), he worked on exhibitions such as Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (2014), Malevich (2014), Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye (2012), Tacita Dean: FILM (2011), Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia (2008) and Cy Twombly: Cycles and Seasons (2008). While at Tate, Dr Cullinan also worked on acquisitions and collection displays, founded a committee for Russian and Eastern Europe art and was involved with many aspects of the second phase of the Tate Modern project, for which the new building, designed by Herzog & De Meuron, is scheduled to open in 2016.

Prior to joining Tate, he was the 2006-7 Hilla Rebay International Fellow between the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Previous experience includes in 2006 a Helena Rubinstein Internship at the Photography Department of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and Lecturer in Art History at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff from 2003-2004. 

Dr Cullinan was educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, where he was awarded First Class Honours for his B.A. in History of Art, a distinction for his M.A. and where he also gained his PhD. In 2003 Dr Cullinan was visiting teacher for the M.A. Course at the Courtauld Institute. While studying there he was a part-time Visitor Services Assistant at the National Portrait Gallery, London from 2001-2003. He also served as board member of the Courtauld Association from 2011-2013. Dr Cullinan is British and grew up in Yorkshire although he was born in Connecticut, USA in 1977.

Other fellowships and honours include the Thaw Senior Research Fellowship at The Morgan Library and Museum, New York (2013), a Courtauld Institute of Art Scholarship (2005-2006); a Leverhulme Studentship (2004-2005); Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome (2004-2005), Edmond J. Safra Scholarship, Courtauld Institute of Art (2003-2004) and an Arts and Humanities Research Board Postgraduate Award (2002-2003).

Dr Cullinan is currently involved in developing the programme for the Fondazione Prada's new venue in Milan, designed by OMA and to be unveiled in May 2015. In 2011 he was curator of post-war Italian art for the Fondazione Prada’s opening exhibition at Ca’ Corner della Regina, Venice. Among other responsibilities, he is Vice-President of the Malevich Society, a member of the Public Art Committee for Lincoln Center, New York, and leads an initiative to preserve and protect analogue film with the artist Tacita Dean. He curated the exhibitions Twombly and Poussin: Arcadian Painters at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London in 2011 and Pawel Althamer and Anatoly Osmolovsky: Parallel Convergences at VAC Foundation, Venice in 2013.

Dr Cullinan has published and lectured internationally. As well as numerous articles and reviews for journals such as Artforum, the Burlington Magazine, Frieze, October and Parkett and essays for exhibition catalogues, his books include Cy Twombly, a forthcoming monograph for Phaidon Press and Robert Rauschenberg: Photographs 1949-62 published by Schirmer/Mosel in 2011.

The appointment of the Gallery’s twelfth Director follows the decision (announced Thursday 12 June 2014) by its current Director Sandy Nairne to step down in February 2015, after 12 years, to pursue his writing and advisory work. Sandy Nairne is due to leave his post at the end of February 2015 and Dr Cullinan will take up his role in spring 2015. 

Sir William Proby, Chairman of the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The Trustees are delighted to welcome Dr Nicholas Cullinan as the new Director of the National Portrait Gallery. He is an outstanding curator and art historian, and has wide ranging international experience. We believe his flair and enthusiasm will allow us to build on the excellent work that Sandy Nairne has done over the past 12 years. On behalf of all my fellow Trustees I would like to wish him every success in his new role, and also express our thanks to Sandy Nairne for his outstanding contribution.’ 

Dr Nicholas Cullinan says: ‘It is with great pleasure that I return to the National Portrait Gallery, an institution that I have grown up with and where I first worked fourteen years ago. At a time when identity, shared culture and civic values are increasingly relevant to us all, the National Portrait Gallery is uniquely placed to generate a discussion by reflecting on our common artistic, cultural and social history – in short, on what binds us together. It will be an honour to lead the Gallery at a particularly exciting time in its development, to build upon its remarkable success and accomplishments and to work with its world-class team in shaping the future direction.’

National Portrait Gallery, London

Tuesday 6 January 2015

For further Press information, please contact: Neil Evans, Media Relations Manager, National Portrait Gallery, London: Tel. 020 7 312 2452 (not for publication) / Email: 

Notes for Editors:

Directors of the National Portrait Gallery, London

1857 Sir George Scharf 
1895 Sir Lionel Cust<
1909 Sir Charles John Holmes
1917 James Milner
1927 Sir Henry Hake
1951 Charles Kingsley Adams
1964 Sir David Piper
1967 Sir Roy Strong
1974 John Hayes
1994 Charles Saumarez Smith
2002 Sandy Nairne
2015 Nicholas Cullinan

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