Gabriele Finaldi: National Gallery unveils its new director

Formerly head of Italian and Spanish painting at the London gallery, Finaldi has been at the Prado since 2002

Gabriele Finaldi
(Image credit: National Gallery )

The National Gallery has appointed a new director, Gabriele Finaldi, to replace retiring chief Nicholas Penny.

Finaldi, who is co-director at the Prado museum in Madrid, served as curator of Italian and Spanish painting at the London museum for ten years, between 1992 and 2002.

The BBC reports that Finaldi, who has been at the Prado since 2002, will take up his new position on 17 August. Finaldi said he was "deeply honoured" to be offered the directorship. "This is a world-class collection in a world-class city," he said.

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The 49 year-old Anglo-Italian was educated at Dulwich College in south London, and studied in Naples and Piacenza before graduating in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art. An expert on Italian and Spanish painting, he was later awarded a doctorate by the same institute for his study of the 17th century Spanish Baroque artist José de Ribera.

Finaldi taught at Reading and London universities before taking up his first curatorial role in 1992 at the National Gallery. During his time at the gallery, he curated a range of exhibitions including Spanish Still Life from Velazquez to Goya (1995), Discovering the Italian Baroque: The Denis Mahon Collection (1997), and Orazio Gentileschi at the Court of Charles I (1999).

At the Prado, Finaldi took charge of the conservation of the art collections accumulated over centuries by the Spanish royal family. During this time, he also kept a hand in London, collaborating with the Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2013 on an exhibition of the Spanish artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, which involved the partial transformation of the gallery into a Baroque-style church.

The Financial Times reports that David Cameron agreed to the appointment of Finaldi. The National Gallery is a British cultural institution, which means that prime ministerial assent must be given to the selection of a new director.

The Financial Times says that Finaldi's appointment highlights the international nature of the battle for the top jobs in the art world. It adds that Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum and an expert on German history, was approached to become the next head of the new Humboldt Forum museum in Berlin.

Meanwhile, Finaldi returns to the National Gallery at the height of the museum's popularity. A record 6m people visited the gallery in 2013, making it the second most popular visitor attraction in the UK, behind the British Museum.

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