‘If I have an ideology, it can be summed up as showing great art of any period that is relevant to a contemporary public … An important exhibition is one that people are still talking about ten years later.’
Joanna Drew (1929–2003)
Exhibitions were Joanna Drew’s life. She began her impressive career at the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1952 and during the next forty years organised an extraordinarily diverse range of exhibitions across time and cultures, from prehistoric art to contemporary art, folk art and high art, spanning Europe, Asia, the Americas, Africa and Australia. Working with luminaries such as Kenneth Clark, Roland Penrose, David Sylvester and John Willett, the 150 exhibitions she made for the Arts Council (and, later, the Hayward Gallery) included the sensational Picasso exhibition held at the Tate Gallery in 1960 – the world’s first blockbuster show – and other landmark exhibitions at the Tate and at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Academy, the ICA and elsewhere in London and the UK.
Between 1975 and 1992 Joanna Drew was successively Director of Exhibitions and Director of Art at the Arts Council and finally Director of the Hayward Gallery, which had become the leading UK venue for thematic exhibitions of Western and non-Western art such as Frescoes from Florence (1969), The Arts of Islam (1975), Dada and Surrealism Reviewed (1978), In the Image of Man: The Indian perception of the Universe through 2000 years of painting and sculpture (1982), 1066: English Romanesque Art (1985) and The Art of Ancient Mexico (1992), and monographic exhibitions from Matisse (1968) and Anthony Caro (1969), through Renoir (1985) and Leonardo da Vinci (1989) to Toulouse-Lautrec (1990) and Bridget Riley (1969 and 1992).
Much of Caroline Hancock’s account of Joanna Drew’s life and work is drawn from memories of her colleagues, contemporaries and friends. It also features Joanna Drew’s own perspective on exhibition making – and her recollections of working with Picasso, Miró, Max Ernst, Jean Arp, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg and many other artists – as voiced in her extensive interviews for the British Library’s National Life Stories, made in 2002. Interspersing the main narrative are tributes from some of the people who worked alongside her. In the words of dealer, collector and curator Monika Kinley: ‘Joanna Drew was just about the only person in the art world everyone respected and loved.’
Caroline Hancock is an independent curator and writer based in Paris. She began her career in museums and galleries in Paris, London and Dublin, and between 2002 and 2008 was an exhibition organiser at the Hayward Gallery. In 2008 she was awarded a Joanna Drew Travel Bursary to research in Algeria. www.carolinehancock.com