Before serving as the Royal Academys artistic director, Tim Marlow, who is also a broadcaster, spent a decade at White Cube © Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Tim Marlow will not be filling Londons Design Museum with contemporary art, he tells The Art Newspaper shortly after being named as the new director and chief executive officer of the institution last month. Marlow, who has served as the artistic director of the Royal Academy since 2014, will be replacing Deyan Sudjic and Alice Black who are standing down as co-directors. “If people think that Im going to bring in a load of artists to try and do things around the boundaries of design, then theyll be disappointed. Because thats exactly what Im not planning, as much as Im planning anything at this stage.”

Although Marlows role at the Royal Academy included overseeing its architecture programme, his appointment to the Design Museum has been something of a surprise nonetheless. He is more closely associated with the contemporary art world, not least due to a ten-year stint at Jay Joplings commercial gallery White Cube, where he was a partner and in charge of exhibitions.

“Ive reached a moment in my life where I wanted a new challenge, and the Design Museum offered an irresistible one. The combination of the listed building in that part of London felt like a provocation.” The museum is in Kensington and occupies the former 1960s Commonwealth Institute, a grade 1 listed building reconfigured internally by the architect John Pawson.

Marlow, who has also fronted a number of television programmes including a series on JMW Turner, says that his first concern is to spend time in the building and with the people already working there, once he joins in January. “I dont know what the big change will be; its too early to say,” he says. “But there are obvious considerations around how to animate the building in different ways. Theres much to be done in talking about design in its broadest sense. Its so central to who we are as human beings and to our culture.”

“I think its a clever and bold decision to appoint Tim,” says Farshid Moussavi, the London-based architect and Royal Academician who has worked closely with Marlow. “The job is about activating the museum and championing the relevance of design. He has experience of running fantastic shows at the Academy, including [the one on] Ai Weiwei. He has an understanding of audiences and space, and artists. I love the idea that he can question design and its role from a fresh perspective, and—as contemporary reality is presenting designers with new problems—he can emphasise the value of creativity over problem-solving.”

Ron Arad, the celebrated Israeli designer and Royal Academician, agrees. “If the appointment means the Design Museum will be less compartmentalised, its a good thing,” he says.

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