A Professional Portrait by Emily Vigliar



Published: 22nd July 2017

What inspired you to pursue a career in the arts?

It was a chance inspiration! I was always interested in art and a regular gallery goer but had never considered it as a career option. I had been working in EU public affairs and communications, but was exploring other options and spotted a job working for the International Head of the Impressionist and Modern Art department at Christie’s. The main draw for me was a truly international environment and the opportunity to use my languages in a new and exciting context. I learnt so much in that role and am very happy to have been pursuing a career in the arts since. 

Can you tell us a little about your role?

I am Manager of International Programmes at the Tate, working in the Partnerships and Programmes team. I manage individual projects which aim to widen and strengthen Tate’s networks internationally,  e.g. an international Fellowship programme, the ‘Tate Intensive’ programme for arts professionals world wide, and various partnerships with institutions in different countries, ranging from China to Oman to Singapore. I work closely with colleagues right across Tate, including those working in Curatorial, Learning, Research and Development to achieve this.

More generally my role is about maintaining collegiate and strong relationships with UK national museums working internationally, and international partners - so networking, attending conferences and keeping abreast with global museum activity is important. I also represent Tate at meetings with the museum sector, British Council and diplomatic delegations.

How did you get your job?

I saw the job advertised on Guardian Jobs online and filled out an application form. I then had two interviews.

What does your average day in your role entail?

On a typical day I might have a meeting with the Public Programmes team at Tate Modern to continue planning the Tate Intensive  (speakers, workshops, participants, logistics…), then back to base at Tate Britain to work on the budgets for the projects I’m responsible for, draft a partnership proposal, have a meeting with a Curator to discuss a project for which they would like to engage international expertise, review an evaluation of the Fellowship programme to send to the donor organisation. And of course emails, lots of emails…It’s quite a sociable job, on some days I might go to an opening at Tate or another art gallery, got to a talk or have drinks to celebrate the launch of a new programme.

What is the best part of your job?

That the job is not static and very varied. I work with different colleagues at all levels of the organisation across both Tate Britain and Tate Modern; I meet lots of interesting people from all over the world; I get a real insight into high level strategic thinking at the organisation and it feels like a privilege to be taking part in those conversations. And catching the Thames clipper boat to meetings. 

What is the hardest part of your job?

Within a large organisation that can be quite bureaucratic and procedural, and where people are extremely busy, it can sometimes be hard to get things done quickly or last minute. On the other hand there are also few fixed rules on how to deal with or organise certain things, which means having to think on my feet and trust my own judgement. This was hard to grasp in the beginning, but I think it’s done me good…

What has been the highlight of your career?

I’d say my highlight so far at Tate has been launching the first Tate Intensive programme, which invites around 30 arts professionals from all over the world to take part in an intensive one-week programme of keynotes, workshops and visits to discuss key questions facing international art institutions today. It was quite a big task that I took on when I had only just started, but I work with a fantastic team and had a real sense of achievement when it all went smoothly and exceeded our expectations – fingers crossed for next time!

Earlier this year I also travelled for the first time to China, Korea and Singapore, to get to know some of the institutions we work with. It was such an exciting and fascinating experience.

What is your favourite Artwork?

So hard to choose! I find Klimt’s birch tree paintings mesmerising and calming, and they remind me of the forests in Sweden, where I am (half) from. At the moment I also love an artwork that has recently been added to Tate Britain’s collection, Le Passeur, by William Stott of Oldham.

Which artist would you have liked or would like to meet?

It’s a cliché, but probably Picasso. I recently read ‘My Life with Picasso’ written by his long-term partner, Françoise Gilot  – she depicts a fascinating, charming and very tricky character.

What advice would you give to people trying to enter the art industry?

It’s not as impenetrable as you might think. There are several roles you can go into without having an Arts History degree and even in those cases where you might imagine that would be essential, if you are willing to put in the hard work you can learn on the job and still get there. There are also many different sides to the industry, try to understand what you are most suited to, whether a museum or an art fair, a foundation, a commercial gallery or an art fair... they are very different environments.

If you weren’t in the art industry, what would you be doing? 

I’d be traveling the world as a diplomat, or a reportage photographer.