London’s Whitechapel Gallery has laid off six staffers, half of whom are high-level curators, The Art Newspaper reports. Among those who are being made redundant are Lydia Yee, who served as the gallery’s chief curator, and Candy Stobbs, an associate curator there for more than two decades. The curatorial team will be led by Gilane Tawadros, who assumed the role of director of the Whitechapel last spring. Tawadros will be assisted by the two remaining curators, a special projects curator, and a head of exhibitions, who has not yet been named, as the position was just created.
The move comes as the Whitechapel, like museums and galleries across England, struggles with skyrocketing energy costs, rising inflation, and sluggish trading in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. A Whitechapel spokesperson noted that the gallery was running a “significant deficit” for fiscal year 2022–23, owing in part to slashed funding from the Arts Council of England. The gallery’s annual report from fiscal year 2021–22 shows a deficit of roughly $88,000. “Whitechapel Gallery is committed to achieving annual surpluses from the 2023/24 financial year onwards and is making changes to its strategy and business model to ensure that this is the case,” said the spokesperson.
Iwona Blazwick, who led the Whitechapel for twenty years before departing in January 2022 to oversee the Wadi Al Fann project that is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program, told The Art Newspaper, “The ACE reduction [from an annual $1.83 million in 2018–2022 to an annual $1.74 million in 2023–26] was relatively modest so it is alarming to learn that highly experienced curators and fundraisers are losing their jobs and that programs are being axed. I hope that the gallery will maintain its commitment to artists and its reputation as a platform for important art and ideas.”