“We’ve just been through this huge global upheaval – we can’t really expect audiences and people in society to go back to the way it was. So what does that mean for museums and public spaces?”
Asking this question is Shoair Mavlian, who is joining the Photographers’ Gallery in London as its new director at the end of the month. “The pandemic feels like it’s a long way behind us, but actually, we’re just beginning to see the changes from that now.” To her, the gallery’s long-term success will be an exercise in “keeping an open mind and asking questions: what kind of museum do we want to build for the future?”
Openness and reinvention aren’t often associated with arts institutions, which can be steeped in history and legacy to their own detriment. But the Photographers’ Gallery, which turned 50 in 2021, is no dinosaur. The organisation is known for its somewhat radical approach to running a gallery – both for daring to position photography as an art form when the gallery was first founded, and in the more recent launch of its digital programme, which boldly questions the medium in today’s society.