Fay Jenkins

Pioneer of museum and gallery advertising

It is difficult, in these days of branded Tates and Guggenheims, to remember that there was a time when museums and galleries did not advertise; when the idea of appealing to the public to come through their doors was regarded with patrician disdain. That this attitude has changed is due in large part to Fay Jenkins, who brought advertising to the art world 30 years ago.

Stella Fay Jenkins, advertising account director: born Chatham, Kent 25 May 1928; died London 31 January 2005.

It is difficult, in these days of branded Tates and Guggenheims, to remember that there was a time when museums and galleries did not advertise; when the idea of appealing to the public to come through their doors was regarded with patrician disdain. That this attitude has changed is due in large part to Fay Jenkins, who brought advertising to the art world 30 years ago.

The early 1970s were a difficult time for British public galleries. Faced with runaway inflation and rising oil prices, the Heath government had left them to fend for themselves. Realising that collections would have to be publicised rather than just shown, gallery directors appointed their first marketing officers: typically, nicely brought-up girls who had worked in education departments, and had no idea of commercial life.

Jenkins, herself a nicely brought-up girl, had acquired this knowledge along the way. The daughter of a cash-strapped army officer, she had supported herself since leaving school, latterly in advertising. Tall, stylish and effortlessly grand, she was running MacKay's account for Grant's whisky - a brand for which she was to retain a lifelong affection - when she spotted the hole in the art market. Moving to Freeman's in 1972, she became the first British account handler to deal specifically with museums and galleries.

The effect was galvanising. According to Sir Roy Strong, then Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum,

Exhibition advertising really began with [Jenkins]. There were no slogans before her. If you were having a show, you might ask the HMSO to do you a poster; but the idea of a campaign as such just didn't exist.

Together, Jenkins and Strong invented "The V&A Family": a winsome group shown clasping things bought in the museum's shop over the forgettable legend, "Spend a Day at the V&A".

From these tentative beginnings, exhibition advertising grew more sophisticated under Jenkins's steady hand. It was she who persuaded institutions like the Whitechapel Art Gallery and British Museum to pool their tiny budgets, beating London Underground down on prices and buying poster space in bulk. In Jenkins's mind, these arts bodies weren't in competition with each other; on the contrary, their safety lay in numbers. And, while she is best remembered for specific campaigns - from the earliest shows at the Hayward to the National Gallery's magisterial "Rembrandt: the master and his workshop" in 1992, not long before her retirement - she insisted that museums had a duty to publicise their permanent collections as well. Success in art advertising wasn't only measured in pounds and pence, although she was proud always to have made a profit for her last agency, Saatchi's.

A populariser rather than a populist, Jenkins found later developments in arts marketing hopelessly vulgar. The V&A's "Ace Caff with Quite a Nice Museum Attached" ad made her snort, though it was a Saatchi campaign. Her views on the Tate's corporate branding process were unprintable. Jenkins's taste had been honed over three years spent in Rome in the 1960s, and culture was a serious business.

Whatever her later misgivings about it, Jenkins remained an elder statesman of the art world. On any given night, you might find a gaggle of ambassadors and museum directors crammed into her tiny kitchen in Wyndham Place; although you might equally find art history students and army sergeants. Jenkins' unquestioning sociability was a vital part of her success, and of the awe in which she was held.

It had played a less certain role in her earlier career. Recruited by MI6 in 1951, she was sent by banana boat to Trinidad, at the age of 22, to report on the colony's growing independence movement. Her reference, written by an elderly brigadier, had ended with the words, "She is an excellent dancer, though not so good as her mother." Sizing up a local politician, Albert Gomes, she discovered that he, too, was a good dancer. Unfortunately, he was also an independence agitator and Communist. When the pair were seen once too often on the floor of the Perseverance Club in Port-of-Spain, Jenkins was sacked and sent home.

She remained, to the end, a mass of engaging contradictions. Constitutionally hard up, she flew to Rome twice a year to have her hair done and to shop on the Via Condotti. (The advertising guru Paul Arden - a colleague at Saatchi's - once asked her whether she bought her clothes at MaxMara. Jenkins fixed him with a basilisk stare and said, "I beg your pardon?") She was a socialist who pronounced off "orf" and across "acrorse"; a heartfelt Roman Catholic who refused to take the Sacrament because it meant confessing a 40-year-old love affair.

Dying of cancer in a London clinic, she claimed to be fed up with life; then she sat back as a manicurist, called to her bedside, painted her nails Jungle Red.

Charles Darwent



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015