National Gallery of Ireland appoints first female director

Caroline Campbell is at present head of collections and research at the National Gallery in London

The National Gallery of Ireland has appointed Caroline Campbell as its new director, the first time a woman has been selected to run the gallery in its 158-year history.

Dr Campbell replaces Sean Rainbird, a British art historian who has been director of the Merrion Square gallery in Dublin city centre since 2012.

The new Belfast-born director will take up the position in November this year. Dr Campbell is at present the head of collections and research at the National Gallery in London and has previously held senior positions in the Ashmolean Museum and the Courtauld Gallery.

A graduate of the University of Oxford and the Courtauld Institute of Art, Dr Campbell will be the 14th director of the national gallery and the first woman to hold the role.


Mary Keane, chair of the National Gallery’s board, said it was “thrilled to have a person of Caroline’s calibre” take on the position. “Caroline’s impressive experience, knowledge and passion will inspire both the gallery team and our visitors, and we eagerly anticipate seeing her vision for the gallery brought to life in the coming years,” she said.

‘Huge pleasure’

In a statement, Dr Campbell said a visit to the national gallery as a teenager inspired her initial interest in art so taking over as director of the institution was a “huge pleasure”.

“I look forward to working with the board and the gallery’s staff on this world-class collection, making its riches available to as wide an audience as possible both in Ireland and internationally through exhibitions, research and education,” she said.

Mr Rainbird, the outgoing director, said he wished Dr Campbell every success in the role and looked forward “to seeing the gallery prosper over the coming years”.

Earlier this year the gallery was on the receiving end of criticism from artists and staff, over its decision to award a catering contract to a company that provides services to direct provision centres, which accommodate asylum seekers.

Aramark, which provides catering services to several direct provision centres, was awarded a €7.5 million contract to run a cafe in the gallery and provide other catering services. The controversy led to a small number of artists pulling their work from the gallery in protest.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times