Artforum reports that Achim Borchardt-Hume has been appointed Chief Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery:
Borchardt-Hume begins his newly created role just as the Whitechapel Gallery gears up to unveil its expansion, following a twenty-million-dollar capital campaign, on April 5. Working closely with Iwona Blazwick, director, Borchardt-Hume will oversee the gallery’s program of modern and contemporary art exhibitions, new artist commissions, presentations of rarely seen public and private collections, focused displays from the historic archive, and program of publications.
Meanwhile, Jackie Wullschlager profiles Whitechapel director Iwona Blazwick in the Financial Times:
Blazwick, cool, blonde, unflappable in a slate-grey body-hugging dress that somehow enhances her nun-like self-assurance and dedication, leads me through labyrinthine building works and admits that “growing up in a matriarchal family, I didn’t know there was such a thing as sexism”. Her launch shows are Isa Genzken, recently voted by Monopol magazine “the world’s most important living artist”, Goshka Macuga, shortlisted for last year’s Turner Prize, and highlights from the British Council collection, such as a Bridget Riley painting “so powerful it hits the back of your eyeballs”. With such exposure for women artists and curators, can gender still be an issue? [ . . . ]
“Everyone I know who is passionate about art has had a formative experience at the gallery,” says Blazwick. “I had mine with Eva Hesse: I knew that I had to be a curator.” She took over in 2002 and has made her mark with key solo shows – Nan Goldin, Gerhard Richter – and pioneering, argumentative retrospectives. “Faces in the Crowd” made national headlines for luring an important Manet from Washington to Whitechapel; this year’s exhibition of Asian photography from 1840 is “bound up with the history of democracy”. Both typify Blazwick’s talent for pinpointing historical themes that resonate with Whitechapel’s inner-city location and immigrant community, where mosques and tandoori take-aways have long replaced synagogues and delis.
Blazwick herself, as London’s only female director of a major public gallery and the child of an immigrant family, carries the Whitechapel’s story symbolically into the 21st century. Her parents, Polish refugees, arrived in Britain in 1947. Both became architects, shaping Blazwick’s aesthetic sensibility – she lingers as we move through the galleries on details, pointing out “the weird passion for terracotta” on the former library, and “the organic natural materials, not Foster’s steel and glass but something vernacular, tactile, closer to the body” in its sympathetic conversion to an art space.
[ . . . ] Blazwick was Tate Modern’s first chief curator and still misses “the exhilarating scale of the architecture, the collection, all that expertise in one place, the status which means you can borrow whatever you like. Here I’m always pleading and begging.” My money is on her as Serota’s eventual successor; as a bold strategist for both high culture and political and social inclusiveness she has an unrivalled reputation, as recognised at the end of last year when London’s mayor Boris Johnson appointed her chairman of his London Cultural Strategy Group, advising on the promotion and development of London as world-class arts capital. Meanwhile, Blazwick can pull off tremendous exhibitions at the Whitechapel partly because it is a venue uniquely loved by artists. Among those who donated more than £2m worth of works at a 2006 charity auction, “Defining the Contemporary”, for the gallery’s revitalisation, were Damien Hirst, Mark Wallinger, Lucian Freud, Peter Doig, Jeff Wall, Georg Baselitz, Carl Andre.
The Reopening of Whitechapel Gallery (Financial Times)