Chris Smith appointed chairman of the Art Fund

  • 18 June 2014

Lord Smith of Finsbury, who introduced free admission to British museums and galleries as the UK's inaugural culture secretary, is to be the next chairman of the Art Fund.

Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury

Chris Smith, Baron Smith of Finsbury

Smith's appointment was announced at the Art Fund's Annual General Meeting, which took place on 17 June 2014 at the Royal Society of Arts. He will take the role following the departure of incumbent chairman David Verey CBE, who is stepping down in mid-July after ten years at the helm.

Chris Smith entered parliament in 1983 as an MP for the Labour Party, defeating George Cunningham to win the seat of Islington South & Finsbury. Before his appointment as the UK's first Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1997–2001), Smith held positions as the shadow treasury minister from 1987 to 1992, and shadowed the environment, heritage, pensions and health portfolios between 1992 and 1997.

During his time in cabinet, Smith secured additional funding and a tax rebate in order to restore free admission to all of Britain's national museums and galleries. He also began the Renaissance in the Regions programme for regional museums, and brought in major changes to the acceptance-in-lieu scheme. He stepped down from parliament in 2005 and was made a life peer later that year, as Lord Smith of Finsbury in the London Borough of Islington.

Since his retirement from politics, Smith has served as chair of the London Cultural Consortium (2005–2008), and was the founding director of the Clore Leadership Programme, which was established to develop new leaders for the cultural sector. He is chairman of the Wordsworth Trust and an honorary fellow of Pembroke College Cambridge, and chaired the judging panel for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2012.

Chris Smith said, 'I'm thrilled to be taking on my new role as chair of the Art Fund. Every year, the Art Fund helps hundreds of museums and galleries to acquire and safeguard important paintings and objects for future generations. It helps to promote touring and sharing and good custodianship. It acts as a catalyst to stimulate others to give. And it campaigns on the things that matter most in the arts. This is an incredibly valuable organisation, and I'm honoured to be part of it.'