George Osborne has been appointed the next chair of the trustees of the British Museum, placing the former Conservative chancellor in one of the most prominent roles in UK culture.
Osborne will take over in October from Sir Richard Lambert, former editor of the Financial Times and former director of the CBI business lobby, at the head of the 25-member board, which includes prominent cultural figures such as Mary Beard and Grayson Perry.
Osborne said: “All my life I have loved the British Museum. To my mind, it is quite simply the greatest museum in the world. It’s a place that brings cultures together and tells the story of our common humanity.”
Minouche Shafik, former deputy governor of the Bank of England, chaired the seven-person appointments committee which the museum said “led an independent, open and thorough search process for a leader with a global perspective, with a demonstrable interest in culture and history.”
In taking up the role at the UK’s best known museum, Osborne will be grappling with heated issues ranging from demands for the restitution of contested objects, such as the Benin Bronzes and the Parthenon Marbles, to climate protests over its longstanding partnership with oil group BP. His appointment comes amid a push by the Conservative government to influence opinion at the senior levels of Britain’s cultural institutions.
Fundraising is another key role for trustees. The British Museum is planning a major overhaul of its buildings and displays under a 10-year master plan for which it has yet to disclose costs but will require substantial investment.
Osborne has slimmed down his portfolio of jobs in the past year, stepping down as editor-in-chief of the Evening Standard newspaper and from a part-time role at US fund manager BlackRock. He has also added a full-time role as a partner at boutique UK financial advisory firm Robey Warshaw.