Profile: Artistic director - Danielle Chidlow, Head of communications, The National Gallery

Danielle Chidlow has a lot to do - and not long in which to do it. Her tenure at The National Gallery is due to expire next summer, when the head of communications, for whom she is filling in, returns from maternity leave. But in that period, she will have overseen the gallery's first branding campaign.

Chidlow, 32, admits that the fervent activity she is leading is partly attributable to the Tate's efforts to raise its profile - and therefore the stakes - over other galleries. With rumours that government funding for galleries is to be diverted into a body set up to monitor the impact of the proposed super casinos - which, she says, has caused 'a lot of ill feeling' in the art world - competition is hotting up for what cash there is.

'When Tate launched Tate Modern in 2000, they asked themselves, "Who are we?". I think it has done a very good job of creating a strong brand, and that has plunged us into what we're doing now.'

In a similar vein to the Tate, Chidlow is working on an internal communications programme to give staff a firmer grasp of what The National Gallery stands for, ahead of the appointment of an ad agency early in the new year.

'When I started in September, I expected to hire an agency straight away,' she says. 'But I realised the first thing to sort out was the brand essence, which the gallery had never actively looked at.'

Branding agency The Partners was hired earlier this month to help with the process. Chidlow sees her current role as an extension of the agency's work, but acknowledges the benefits of being the client and making decisions, rather than acting as a facilitator.

Her passion for the job and The National Gallery is evident. She is a woman in her element, speaking knowledgeably about its collection and enthusiastically about getting visitors involved in the gallery. 'I want people to build an emotional connection with the place and realise it was built for them,' she says.

A champion of art for the masses, it is important to Chidlow that people are not put off visiting The National Gallery because they feel intimidated.

'You don't need a classical education or a belief in Christianity to enjoy our paintings.'

Of regular visitors to the gallery, Chidlow plans to target those who frequent only the temporary exhibitions. Her intention is to drive home the message that the works on permanent display form 'the finest collection of Western art in the world'.

Accessibility, she adds, does not have to mean cool or trendy, but part of her strategy is to communicate that the paintings cover themes such as love, sex, birth and death - all as relevant today as when the works were created.

Appealing to tourists is also important. Prospects in this area already look good; visitor numbers from abroad are at their highest level since 9/11, having made an almost complete recovery.

Central to getting the brand campaign under way was the opening of the East Wing, which provides a significantly bigger space for the permanent collection. Alongside this is a new cafe and gift shop, with an entrance directly off a pedestrianised Trafalgar Square.

The role at The National Gallery combines Chidlow's advertising experience with her academic background; she studied art history at Bristol University, before picking up an MPhil in Byzantine history and art history at Oxford.

After a five-month internship at auction house Christie's, the lure of the ad world, with its creative and strategic elements, proved too strong.

An account director at M&C Saatchi until August, Chidlow was settled, but says that 'when the vacancy came up I knew I had to apply'.

After wrenching herself away from M&C Saatchi, with warnings that she was ruining her career ringing in her ears, she felt that after a short stint in the art world, she would be back in advertising.

A few months and many art-world contacts later, she is not so sure - although M&C Saatchi chief executive Tim Duffy, who describes Chidlow as 'smart and no-nonsense with a bit of mischief and a lot of charm', would welcome her back with open arms.


1997: Intern, Christie's

1997-2000: Graduate trainee rising to account supervisor, Saatchi &


2000-2002: Account supervisor rising to account director, D'Arcy

2002-2004: Account director, M&C Saatchi

2004-present: Head of communications, The National Gallery


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