Hannah Rothschild joined us to talk about her role as Chair of the National Gallery, her views on the art world, philanthropic giving and her work as a novelist and biographer. Of the National Gallery she said she feels “enormous pride” to be involved in a team that delivers “absolutely stellar exhibitions” but that it is important for the Chair to know when to back off.
Hannah talked about her role at the National Gallery as mostly being concerned with strategy, and that one of the Gallery’s key development areas is digitisation of the collections. Everything that the gallery owns is now available online, and they are building a digital museum “so that anybody can access the National Gallery at any time of day”.
Hannah described a project she is currently working on, which will seek to light seventeen bridges over the river Thames, transforming the “heart of London into a ribbon of light”. This will be the biggest public art project in the world, and will also reduce the carbon footprints of the bridges, as the lights will be powered by the water running under the bridge
Speaking candidly about her family background, Hannah said that previously no Rothschild women had been allowed to get involved in the family business, and that she was “the first one who worked in finance”. She is “absolutely 100%” a feminist and proud of it.
Hannah also mentioned how she was inspired to write her first book by a visit to a clairvoyant, who predicted that she would “see a field of violets” and that would motivate her to write. Hannah did see the violets and then went on to write her first novel, which has since been translated into twelve languages. Her latest novel, which she is currently working on, will be about a family living in a crumbling stately home. Hannah said that for her, writing novels is much easier because fact-checking is so exhausting
Watch the video to find out Hannah’s approach to art collecting, the importance of protecting sea cumbers, and why she really wouldn’t advise anyone to write a family biography.