Portrait of Jonathan Watkins

Thank You Jonathan Watkins

Today Jonathan Watkins steps down as Ikon Director.

Thank you for your 23 years of service, for leading Ikon to where it is today and for your commitment to presenting the very best contemporary art. The impact of your dedication and leadership is felt by all at Ikon, the many artists you have supported and the much wider cultural community.

Jonathan Watkins joined Ikon in 1999, having previously worked as Curator of the Serpentine Gallery and Director of Chisenhale Gallery. During his time at Ikon he has championed artists from Birmingham, such as Hurvin Anderson, Vanley Burke, Ruth Claxton, John Walker, Gillian Wearing and Osman Yousefzada, whilst also showcasing emerging international talent, including Marjolijn Dijkman and Nástio Mosquito, and more established figures such as Georges Adeagbo, Francis Alÿs, Carmen Herrera, Beatriz Milhazes, On Kawara and Giuseppe Penone.

In 2015 he oversaw Ikon’s 50th year celebrations and established the Ikon Investment Fund, safeguarding Ikon’s future programming and commissioning of new work. Recent commissions include work by emerging artists Betsy Bradley and Abdulrazaq Awofeso.

Watkins also instigated a dynamic off-site programme, challenging conventional notions of how and where art can be seen. This has featured, among others, Katharina Grosse, Ann Veronica Janssens, Tadashi Kawamata and Cornelia Parker. Initiatives include Slow Boat, a canal boat curated by the Ikon Youth Programme since 2010 and an artists’ residency programme at HMP Grendon. Further afield Watkins has led Ikon to participate in international initiatives such as the Venice Biennale, Lahore Biennale and Manif d’art 9 – The Quebec City Biennial, whilst Ikon exhibitions tour with international partners.

In 2005 Ikon introduced historical exhibitions to assert the contemporary relevance of art from the past. Our current exhibition, Moment to Moment, is the first exhibition dedicated solely to Edward Lear’s sketches and landscape drawings, and earlier this year Watkins realised a “curatorial dream”, with Shadows on the Sky, the first exhibition in the UK dedicated to the work of Renaissance artist Carlo Crivelli.

Following his departure, Watkins will continue working as an independent curator on international art projects, whilst remaining an important advocate.


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