Nairne was appointed director in November 2002. He was previously director of programs at Tate, and before that worked at the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (now Modern Art Oxford). He has previously worked as a curator and writer, creating State of the Art (with John Wyver and Geoff Dunlop) for Channel 4 and Chatto & Windus, 1987, and publishing Thinking about Exhibitions, 1996; The Portrait Now, 2006 (with Sarah Howgate); Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners, 2011; and 21st Century Portraits, 2013 (with Sarah Howgate).
Among other commitments he is currently chair of the Fabric Advisory Committee of St Paul’s Cathedral, and chair of the Maggie’s Art Group, which advises on art for the Maggie’s cancer care centers.
“It has been a great privilege to lead such a special institution as the National Portrait Gallery, and I am very proud of what we have achieved over the past decade. The fact that 2 million visitors now come each year to visit exhibitions, take part in activities or see displays of this amazing collection in London, as well as around the country or online, is testimony to the dedication of all who work at the gallery and those who support it in so many different ways. The gallery is in very good shape and will go from strength to strength,” said Nairne.
“Sandy has done a tremendous job at the National Portrait Gallery and he will be greatly missed. He has significantly increased visitor numbers, put on some wonderful exhibitions, such as “Lucian Freud Portraits,” and overseen many major commissions and acquisitions, including the Van Dyck self-portrait this year. He has built a very strong team and prepared them well for the future,” said Sir William Proby, chairman of the trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, London.