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Derek Gillman
Derek Gillman
Distinguished Teaching Professor; Senior Adviser to the President for University Collections



URBN Center, 138

Derek Gillman is Distinguished Teaching Professor, Art History and Museum Leadership, and Senior Adviser to the President for University Collections, at Drexel University. He is author of The Idea of Cultural Heritage (Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed., 2010) and numerous articles.

He was an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford University, where he read Chinese Studies. After graduating in 1975 he spent a year in China at the Beijing Languages Institute. From 1977-81 he was a specialist in Chinese art at Christie’s London, and then moved to the British Museum as Research Assistant for China in the Department of Oriental Antiquities. From 1985-95 he was Keeper (Director) of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia (UEA), where he was responsible for the collection of modern and non-western art formed by Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, patrons of Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, and worked closely with architect Norman Foster on the Centre’s Crescent Wing extension. While at UEA he also undertook a Master of Laws degree on the emerging subject of cultural property.

In 1995 he moved to Melbourne as Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Australia’s principal encyclopedic art museum, overseeing its internationally regarded collection of Old Master, Impressionist and modern European paintings. He worked with Mario Bellini’s architectural team on the refurbishment of the NGV’s existing building, and Lab Architecture on the design of a new complex for Australian art, which together doubled the display space to 200,000 sq.ft.


He then came to the United States, in 1999, becoming President and Director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, America’s oldest art school and museum, where he planned the renovation by Dagit-Saylor of a former car factory adjacent to Frank Furness’s landmark building. During its bicentennial in 2005, PAFA became America’s first art institution to receive the National Medal of Arts.

From 2006 to 2013, Derek Gillman was Executive Director and President of the Barnes Foundation, stewarding the collection to its new home in central Philadelphia. Albert Barnes assembled the world’s greatest holding of Cézanne paintings and among the most important of Renoir, Matisse, early Picasso, Modigliani and Soutine, as well as superb works by Monet, Manet, van Gogh and Seurat. Critical reception of the Tod Williams & Billie Tsien designed building, landscaped by Olin, is reflected in these articles from 2012: ‘A Museum, Reborn, Remains True to Its Old Self, Only Better’ (New York Times), ‘The New Barnes Shouldn’t Work - But Does’ (Wall Street Journal), and ‘Victory: The Great New Barnes’ (New York Review of Books).

In 2014 he became Distinguished Visiting Professor at Drexel, and then in 2015 joined Christie’s, New York, as Chairman of Impressionist and Modern Art, presenting Picasso’s world auction record-breaking Les Femmes d’Alger at its first public preview in Hong Kong. In 2016 he returned to Drexel as Distinguished Teaching Professor.


Professor Gillman is a fellow of the Lenfest Center for Cultural Partnerships at Drexel, a member of the board of the International Cultural Property Society, serving as president from 2008-14, a longstanding member of the Association of Art Museum Directors, and a consulting scholar in the Asian Section of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. In 2013 he was Marina Kellen French Distinguished Visitor at the American Academy in Berlin.


Derek Gillman MA (Oxon.), LL.M


2020         Claire Finkelstein, Derek Gillman, Frederik Rosén (eds.), Culture and Value: The Preservation of Heritage in                        Times of War (Oxford University

2010        The Idea of Cultural Heritage, revised 2nd edition (Cambridge University Press); 1st edition 2006 (Institute of Art                    and Law); Chinese translation by Tang Lulu and Xiang Yong (Dongbei University of Finance and Economics                      Press, 2018)


Recent articles

2020          ‘Preserving valuable objects and sites, in times of war and at other times’, in Claire Finkelstein, Derek Gillman,                       Frederik Rosén (eds.), Culture and Value: The Preservation of Heritage in Times of War (Oxford University Press)

2019          ‘Heritage, value and vulnerability’ (遗产, 价值与脆弱性), 遗产 (Heritage, Nanjing University Press), vol. 1,                       no. 1, 3-14

                  ‘The Old Summer Palace and the rhetoric of national treasures’, Santander Art and Culture Law Review, vol. 5,                    no. 2 (special issue on ‘National Treasures: Limits to Private Property and Cross-Border Movements’

2015          ‘The imperial luohans of Zhongdu and the reassertion of Chan (Zen) Buddhist influence in north China’,                              Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society 78, 41-52