News that the Prado’s Gabriele Finaldi has been appointed to head London’s National Gallery shook the normally calm art museum world this week.
Finaldi’s departure will be a blow to the Madrid gallery, where he has been assistant director since September 2002.
Both the Prado and the National Gallery declined to comment on the hiring, which had been rumored for some time and was reported in the online edition of the Financial Times. A Prado representative stated that Finaldi was away on a trip and that no comment would be made until the National Gallery and the British government had first done so.
According to the FT, British Prime Minister David Cameron has already okayed the appointment.
London-born Finaldi, who is of Italian descent, is already more than familiar with the National Gallery as he was curator of Italian and Spanish painting there between 1992 and 2002.
The post has been vacant since outgoing director Nicholas Penny announced that he was retiring in June of last year after six years at the helm.
Since then, many are the candidates who have been proposed to replace him, including Taco Dibbits, collections director at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum; Axel Rüger, director of the Dutch capital’s Van Gogh Museum, and Luke Syson, director of European sculpture and decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
Finaldi, whose wife is Spanish, has played a key role in modernizing the Prado. He was behind the idea to reorganize the museum’s vast collection, which is now exhibited in chronological order and by various schools of painting.
Under his guidance, the Prado’s emblematic central gallery was also revamped and now showcases 59 large-format artworks by masters such as Velázquez, Tintoretto, Titian, Rubens and Goya.
Meanwhile, the National Gallery is expecting its upcoming Goya exhibition to become one of this year’s blockbusters.