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New BM Chair former British Chancellor

Hannah McGivern, Appointment of former UK Chancellor George Osborne as new British Museum chairman draws criticism, The Art Newspaper, 24 June 2021

Ex-politician, who presided over austerity cuts to culture, takes up the position on 4 October.

George Osborne, formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer, at Frieze London in 2017 Photo: © David Owens.

George Osborne, the former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been named the new chairman of the British Museum (BM) by its board of trustees. Announced in a statement by the BM today, Osborne joins the 25-person board on 1 September and will take over from the London museum’s current chairman of seven years, Richard Lambert, on 4 October.

Elected the youngest-ever Conservative MP in 2001, aged 30, Osborne served as chancellor under prime minister David Cameron from 2010 to 2016. After quitting politics at the 2017 general election, he became editor of the Evening Standard newspaper and a part-time advisor to the US investment management firm BlackRock. In March, he stepped down from those roles to take up a full-time partnership at the boutique financial consultancy Robey Warshaw. He is also the chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

At the BM, he joins a board that includes the artist Grayson Perry—who was once rumoured to be a personal favourite of Osborne’s—and the classics scholar Mary Beard. According to the museum, the trustees unanimously approved his appointment following a search process led by the deputy chair Minouche Shafik for a “leader with a global perspective, with a demonstrable interest in culture and history, and a commitment to engaging local, national and international audiences”.

At a time when the UK’s national museums are recovering from the bruising financial impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns, Shafik paid tribute to Osborne’s “experience with finance and fundraising on a global scale”.

The BM’s director, Hartwig Fischer, anticipates Osborne’s involvement in “the biggest transformative project in our history”, a multi-year masterplan that will include major building refurbishments as well as a full rethink of the permanent collection galleries. Amid a reckoning over the colonial legacies of major Western museums, Fischer has promised that the masterplan will give more prominence to collections from the Pacific, the Americas and Africa.

See also: George Osborne appointed chair of British Museum