Gabriele Finaldi took over the head position at the National Gallery London on Monday. Instead of easing into the museum director position during what should be the lull of August holiday time, Finaldi will find himself at the center of continuing protest and strikes over the privatization of the museum's staff positions.
To the dismay of some workers, the National opted to 'outsource its “visitor services” (ie, security guard and gallery assistant jobs), signing a contract with Securitas, the giant security firm, that is worth £40 million over five years,' reports the Telegraph.
Replacing Nicholas Penny, who announced his retirement last summer, Finaldi is said to have the right chops for the job of running the UK's second most-visited museum. (The British Museum is number one with visitors.) Finaldi is known to have an art scholar's eye as well as talent in moving forward captial projects.
Dr Finaldi, a British citizen, was Deputy Director for Collections and Research at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, since 2002. He was formerly a curator at the National Gallery, London, between 1992 and 2002 where he was responsible for the later Italian paintings in the collection (Caravaggio toCanaletto) and the Spanish collection (Bermejo to Goya).
Born in London, the 49-year-old studied art history at Dulwich College and then at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where his doctoral research focused on the 17th-century painter Jusepe de Ribera. At the National Gallery he curated various exhibitions including 'Spanish Still Life from Velázquez to Goya' (1995), 'Discovering the Italian Baroque: The Denis Mahon Collection' (1997), 'Orazio Gentileschi at the Court of Charles I' (1999) and (together with previous National Gallery Director, Neil MacGregor) 'Seeing Salvation: The Image of Christ' (2000).
Credited with modernizing the Prado, including a major expansion in 2007, Finaldi recently curated an exhibition on Murillo, 'The Art of Friendship: Murillo and Justino de Neve' (2012) which was on display at the Prado, Seville and at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London. At the Prado he spearheaded the acquisition of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 'Feast of the Wine of Saint Martin' (ca. 1566), and the early and exceedingly rare French panel painting attributed to Colart de Laon, 'The Agony in the Garden with the donor, Louis I of Orléans' (1405-10). He is the editor of the Museum's art historical periodical, the 'Boletín del Museo del Prado', and is currently writing a book on the drawings of Ribera.