Alistair Hudson, current director of the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, will succeed Maria Balshaw

The University of Manchester and Manchester City Council have announced that Alistair Hudson, currently Director of the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima), will be the new Director of Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth. 

Hudson will take up his role in the New Year, and succeeds Maria Balshaw, who became the Tate’s first female director earlier this year following ten years of directorship at The Whitworth and five years at Manchester City Galleries.

Hudson began his career at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London (1994-2000), before joining The Government Art Collection (2000-04) where, as Projects Curator, he devised a public art strategy for the new Home Office building with Liam Gillick.

As Deputy Director of Grizedale Arts (2004-14) in the Lake District, he helped the institution gain critical acclaim for its radical approaches to working with artists and communities, based on the idea that art should be useful and ‘not just an object of contemplation.’ The following year, he was a 2015 jury member for the Turner Prize. 

Maria Balshaw Whitworth Art Gallery
Hudson succeeds Maria Balshaw, now Director of the Tate group

During the last three years as Director at mima, he continued championing art as a tool for social change and education; setting out its vision as a ‘useful museum’, engaging local communities and responding to Middlesbrough’s industrial heritage, as well as placing it amongst the most prestigious galleries in the UK.

He is also Chair of Culture Forum North, an open network of partnerships between higher education and the cultural sector across the North, and co-director of the Asociación de Arte Útil with Tania Bruguera.

Of his new position, Hudson said: “I am completely thrilled to be taking up this post in Manchester. The city’s cultural scene is one of the most dynamic and diverse in the country and Manchester Art Gallery and the Whitworth are at the heart of this.

"Maria Balshaw and her teams have established both institutions at the forefront of the democratisation of art, working for all of society. I look forward to driving this mission forward and working across the region in projects that have real impact in people’s lives.”

Manchester Art Gallery
Manchester Art Gallery opened in 1835 and boasts six centuries of art

The dual Directorship role reflects the partnership between Manchester Art Gallery (City Council) and The Whitworth (The University of Manchester) over the last five years: bringing Manchester’s historic and modern art collections into alliance.

While each gallery has retained its governance arrangement and distinctive personality, the two institutions frequently work together on joint projects that build on the strength of the city collections.

The Whitworth re-opened in 2015 after a £17 million transformation, which doubled its former size and added a new glass wing overlooking Whitworth Park. It has since welcomed over 900,000 visitors, more than doubled previous annual records and scooped accolades like the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2015. 

Professor James Thompson, Vice-President for Social Responsibility at The University of Manchester, said: “The Whitworth is a hugely important cultural asset for the University and for the many thousands of visitors from the local community and further afield who use it every year.

“Alistair is dedicated to the idea of cultural institutions as a force for promoting social change, and this fits precisely with the mission of the Whitworth. We are delighted that he will be leading the gallery into the next phase of its development.”

Whitworth Art Gallery Dinner 5684F
The Whitworth re-opened in 2015 after a £17 million transformation

Manchester Art Gallery, meanwhile, was designed by Sir Charles Barry and opened in 1835 to showcase the best art and ideas from around the world. The gallery underwent a £35m four-year expansion project, completed in 2002, which connected it to the adjacent Athenaeum Theatre building - also designed by Barry - and significantly expanded its exhibition space and facilities. As well as boasting six centuries of art, and an outstanding collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings, the gallery also has a strong reputation for staging new work.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member Schools Culture and Leisure, Manchester City Council, said: “Manchester already has an unrivalled reputation for culture and the arts that is acknowledged not just nationally but also internationally.

“However we're determined that more Manchester residents will benefit from and enjoy the amazing cultural facilities right on their doorstep. This makes Alistair's very welcome appointment as Director not just of one but two of the country's leading galleries - both of which happen to be based here in Manchester - a hugely significant moment in terms of our future aspirations for the galleries themselves and for the city."