Royal Academy gives key role to media chief for key role

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The Independent Online
The former chief executive of Independent Television News (ITN) and the Economist Group, David Gordon, is to replace Piers Rodgers as secretary of the Royal Academy.

Mr Rodgers, secretary since1982, is to head the Academy's acquisition projects and mastermind the take-over of neighbouring premises being vacated by the Museum of Mankind.

The new secretary, who is also chairman of the Contemporary Art Society and a trustee of the Tate Gallery, will take up the post on 17 June. Mr Gordon said yesterday that he was "honoured and delighted" by his appointment to what he termed a "very special, individual and quirky place".

He said his arrival would not herald tremendous changes."I'm not an all-guns-blazing person. I want to meet as many of the members as I can and get a feel for what they think.

"The way I shall approach it is to immerse myself in the place and not to come in and say 'here are the changes' because one risks looking incredibly silly in a couple of months time, especially in a place like the RA." The Academy, whose membership comprises 80 academics, painters, engravers and sculptors, attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It has no public subsidy and relies on income from exhibitions and occasional sales of its treasures.

Mr Gordon takes over after a difficult 12 months during which it has undergone a major investigation into fraud and suffered a public split between its art and architectural wings.

He said: "It's had a fairly turbulent 228 years actually. I think the point is that you've got 80 members and each tends to have very strongly expressed views about all manner of things on art and architecture, and it has to be a fairly broad church."

If anything, he suggests, he relishes the creative tension. "It's the kind of place that by its very nature is an academy of individuals who are all quite noisy and that's a jolly good thing. I don't think it has much of a uniform view of anything other than that this kind of intensive discussion and debate tends to produce good results."

Described by colleagues as "hyperactive", "extremely sparky" and with an informal style, Mr Gordon is an unconventional figure for the post. A former journalist, he is involved in the London radio franchise competitor and indie music station Festival Radio and Wired magazine. He is said to be a popular choice for secretary.

The Academy is hoping to acquire the Museum of Mankind property when it moves back to the British Museum in 1998, probably with the aid of funding from the National Lottery.

Sir Philip Dowson, president of the Academy, said yesterday: "Piers Rodgers' contribution to the development of the Royal Academy over the last 15 years has been inestimable."