Contemporary Art Society— Chair

The Contemporary Art Society seeks a dynamic and passionate Chair who can guide the organisation through the next phase of development and growth. This is an exciting opportunity to join an ambitious and internationally-respected organisation, and to play a part in writing the future of art history in the UK.

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The Contemporary Art Society (CAS) is a London-based charity with national reach. With an illustrious history of supporting successive generations of world-renowned artists, the CAS is on a strong growth trajectory and has ambitious plans for the future.  

Since 1910, the Contemporary Art Society has donated over 10,500 works to museums and public galleries – from Bacon, Freud, Hepworth and Moore in their day through to the influential artists of our own times. In the last ten years, the Society has increased its investment in art purchase from £160,000 per year to over £500,000 per year. Through the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, the CAS responded to the crisis by establishing the Rapid Response Fund, based on two successful crowd-funding campaigns. This significantly increased its investment in art purchase - and therefore artists - and provided much needed encouragement to museums battling with successive lockdowns.

The Contemporary Art was founded to support living artists by buying their work for public collections in the UK. Today, it works with 77 museums across the UK and typically purchases work from between 30-40 artists each year. The CAS is unique in the way it works with museums, many of which have been members for 90 or more years. The membership constitutes a highly-regarded and powerful network of professionals. Museum Membership entitles them to an acquisition every four years through its core acquisitions schemes for fine art and craft, to access to its competitive schemes, eligibility for Gifts and Bequests and to participation in its year-round Continuous Professional Development programme.

The CAS has established strong partnerships with the National Gallery, supporting the artist in residence programme there; with the Henry Moore Foundation, supporting the acquisition of sculpture for Leeds Art Gallery and The Hepworth Wakefield, and with Frieze London where it has made high-profile purchases for regional museums.

An important strand of income generation for the charitable work of the Society comes from CAS Consultancy. A for-profit consultancy team working with a range of high-profile public sector and commercial clients, CAS Consultancy offers a range of services including writing public art strategies, major commissions in the public realm, and corporate art collection management. This consultancy work not only provides increasingly significant income for the Contemporary Art Society but also contributes directly to the Society’s mission by facilitating and encouraging the production of great art for the public realm.

Annual turnover is c. £1.6m. This comprises just under £170,000 received from the Arts Council England and the remainder derived from the annual subscription of the 77 Member Museums, individual and corporate patrons, and fundraising income.

Role specification

The Contemporary Art Society is run by a small and experienced executive team under the leadership of Director, Caroline Douglas.

The Chair is pivotal in creating the conditions for the overall effectiveness of the Board, both inside and outside the boardroom. They have particular responsibility for providing effective leadership on matters such as:

  • Supporting and guiding the Director and Senior Management Team in delivery of the agreed vision, mission and strategic objectives
  • Promoting the Contemporary Art Society to a range of stakeholders and supporters including current and future donors and supporters
  • Taking a leadership role in the ongoing and essential fundraising activities of the Contemporary Art Society
  • Establishing a close relationship with the Director, providing support and advice
  • Developing the Board Agenda and managing the Board’s meetings to ensure that sufficient time is allowed for discussion of complex or contentious issues and to promote effective decision-making and constructive debate
  • Promoting effective relationships and open communication, both inside and outside the boardroom, between Trustees and the executive
  • Encouraging high standards of propriety, integrity and probity and promoting the efficient and effective use of staff and other resources
  • Identifying and recommending suitable candidates for appointment as future Trustees

Person specification

The Contemporary Art Society is looking for suitably qualified candidates who can demonstrate:

  • An appreciation of and passion for contemporary art
  • The ability to commit the necessary time and energy to this demanding and rewarding role
  • Excellent communications and ambassadorial skills
  • The ability and willingness to access and influence high level stakeholder and fundraising networks for the benefit of the Contemporary Art Society
  • Prior Board experience and a strong track record in governance
  • The necessary experience and desire to effectively support the executive team in the delivery of an agreed vision, mission and strategic objectives
  • Sound judgement and the highest level of integrity combined with the ability to evaluate risk within the context of the Contemporary Art Society and support the executive team in managing risk effectively
  • A knowledge and appreciation of cultural, business and political issues and an ability to relate these to the work of the Contemporary Art Society
  • Strong leadership ability combined with a highly collaborative style

Board composition

Marco Compagnoni, Chair
Nicola Blake
Michael Bradley
Tommaso Corvi-Mora
Timothy Franks
Emma Goltz
Suling C Mead
Ama Ofori-Darko
Béatrice Lupton
Keith Morris
Valeria Napoleone
Francis Outred
Bianca Roden
John Shield
Cathy Wills
Edwin Wulfsohn
Anna Yang

You can find out more about the Board here.

Terms of appointment

The appointment is for a three-year term, which can be renewed at the discretion of the Board. The overall time commitment is expected to be around two days per month, including the five Board of Trustees meetings per year. There are three subcommittees which report formally to the Board: the Finance Committee, which meets four times a year; the Development Board which meets four times a year and the new ACE Investment Principles Subcommittee, which meets four times per year.