National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) has appointed a woman as director-general for the first time in its history.

Anne Lyden will take up the role on January 1 2024 after current director-general Sir John Leighton steps down on December 31 following a 17-year tenure.

She joined NGS in 2013, having previously held various curatorial positions at the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where she worked for 18 years.

At NGS she was international photography curator and then chief curator of photography. In 2022, she became interim co-director of collection and research.


She has written widely on the subject of photography and art and has authored numerous publications.

Ms Lyden said: “I am looking forward to this incredible opportunity to lead the National Galleries of Scotland in the next chapter of its impressive history.

“It is my great privilege to continue the excellent work led by Sir John and colleagues over the years, most recently the success of the new Scottish galleries at the National.

“I am eager to continue my work with Trustees, colleagues, community partners, audiences, artists, and supporters in realising our plans for the future including The Art Works, our new collections facility in North Edinburgh.

“Having worked with the national collection and a wide range of colleagues over the last 10 years, I am delighted to continue this experience of making art accessible to everyone.”

NGS comprises the National, Portrait, Modern One and Modern Two galleries in Edinburgh where visitors can see art ranging across the centuries.

As director-general, Ms Lyden will work with the NGS board of trustees, leadership team, colleagues across the organisation, and a great many donors and stakeholders to “make art work for everyone.”

Born in West Dunbartonshire, she grew up in Clydebank and studied History of Art at the University of Glasgow, and Museum Studies at the University of Leicester.

Benny Higgins, chair of the NGS board of trustees, said: “I am thrilled that we have appointed Anne Lyden as our new director-general. Anne brings a strong understanding of the national collection and our talented people, together with extensive international experience.

“Over the past few months, we embarked on a rigorous search to find our next director-general, resulting in us speaking to many people across the UK and internationally.

“Following a thorough recruitment process, we know we have the right person to lead the National Galleries of Scotland into the future.

“Anne’s strong personal values and leadership style, coupled with her knowledge of art, will see us deliver on our strategic commitments and I am looking forward to working with her.”

Sir John Leighton described Ms Lyden as a “highly talented curator and leader with a strong commitment to inclusion and diversity”.

He said: “She has a compelling vision of the benefits that access to great art can achieve in these volatile times and is the right person to drive forward the National Galleries’ commitment to bringing world-class art to the widest possible audience.”