New creative lead appointed to help steer Manchester Art Gallery into its next 200 years.

Dr Inbal Livne has been appointed by Manchester Art Gallery as its Senior Creative Lead, a new post to help steer the gallery and play a key part in shaping the way its collections are used and understood by the many thousands of local, national and international visitors who flock to the gallery each year.

A graduate of the University of Edinburgh where she studied Archaeology, Livne’s career has seen her undertake roles at both The British Museum, and National Museums Scotland, where she worked from 2005 as Assistant Curator, East and Central Asia.

She began her PhD in 2009, as a collaborative award with National Museums Scotland and the University of Stirling, and completed it (Tibetan Collections in Scottish Museums 1890-1920: A Critical Historiography of Military and Missionary Intent) in 2014.

In 2013 Livne’s career took her to the Powell-Cotton Museum in Kent, starting first as Collections Manager, then Head of Collections, before becoming Head of Collections and Engagement.  During her time at the museum – which had hardly changed in the previous 100 years – Livne’s focus was on reframing the museum’s colonial history, and placing front and centre the stories of African men and women and local Kentish people, both of whom were instrumental in the creation of the museum, and who were present in the museum’s archives, but absent from public exhibition.

Livne led the museum’s teams not just on telling different stories about the collection, but in finding ways to make the collection more accessible to more people, particularly those people who had personal connections to the collections.  She also led on cultural change within the institution, bringing in a working practice that aimed to be decolonial and anti-racist, as part of the journey to develop and diversify stories, audiences, and collections.

After leaving Kent in 2021, for the last year Livne has been in Manchester, working at the John Rylands Library as Curator, Diversifying Collections.  The broad-ranging role has seen her work with local organisations as diverse as the Manchester Geographical Society whose historic archive is within the library, and Manchester’s Sikh community on projects to make Sikh religious text more available in appropriate and respectful ways to community members.

Her appointment as Senior Creative Lead at Manchester Art Gallery comes as the gallery prepares to celebrate a significant milestone in its history, with 2023 marking two hundred years since the founding of the Royal Manchester Institution in 1823, through which the gallery’s earliest origins can be traced.

Housed in what is now the main gallery building on Mosley Street, the Royal Manchester Institution was a scholarly society – promoting the arts, holding regular art exhibitions, and collecting works of fine art from the 1820s until 1882, when its premises and collections were transferred under Act of Parliament to Manchester Corporation, becoming Manchester Art Gallery.

Dr Inbal Livne said; “I’m hugely excited to have been given the opportunity to play a central role in the life and history of Manchester Art Gallery.  The Gallery’s ethos of putting people at the centre of everything it does, improving wellbeing, creating communities of care, and providing inclusive access to culture for everyone are values I personally believe in and have championed throughout my career.

“I’m honoured to be entrusted with helping take this mission forward into a new chapter for the gallery and can’t wait to get going and to continue the two hundred years’ worth of collaboration and innovation that the gallery has already been known for- with the people of Manchester and with our other cultural organisations and partners, both across the city and far beyond.”

Over the course of the next four years a comprehensive programme of refurbishment will take place across Manchester Art Gallery’s estate alongside an ambitious programme of collection review, research, and re-think. The aim being to create the conditions for new understandings, ideas, and knowledge that can make a tangible difference to people’s lives.

The work is expected to transform the gallery’s public programme and further unlock the rich potential of the city’s art collection to help foster belonging and understanding, and to unite cultures and communities through shared experience and common purpose.

Livne will co-lead the gallery alongside the existing Senior Operational Lead, Amanda Wallace, and will have specific responsibility for the development and delivery of the public programme across all gallery sites, and the development and use of the city’s world-class art collection for the benefit of the people of Manchester.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Deputy Leader Manchester City Council, said: “Inbal is going to be great for the gallery – she very much shares our values and her passion for people, for places, and for telling their stories creatively to as wide an audience as possible is infectious, and exactly what we’re looking for as the gallery moves into the next two hundred years.”

This new senior leadership role at Manchester Art Gallery replaces the former shared Directorship arrangement that was in place until the end of last year that saw one Director at the helm of both the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery.  Whilst the two galleries will now have their own unique leadership structures, strengthening their individual governance, they will continue to build on their existing close partnership as a three-way Arts Council England-funded National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) alongside Manchester Museum, ensuring that this unique collaboration between the University of Manchester and Manchester City Council continues deliver something greater than the sum of its parts – a uniquely Mancunian museum and art gallery service for the city.

Livne takes up her new post at Manchester Art Gallery on 10 July 2023.