Rachel Thomas has been appointed Chief Curator of the Hayward Gallery at the Southbank Centre. Rachel joins the gallery on 28th April 2022 from the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), where she was Head of Exhibitions and Senior Curator since 2002. Rachel will report to Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff and will work alongside Curator Yung Ma and the rest of the Hayward Gallery’s expert team of Assistant Curators and Curatorial Assistants to support the gallery’s dynamic programme, which showcases some of the world’s most adventurous and innovative artists. Rachel will work closely with Ralph in planning the future exhibition schedule, supervising the project teams from each exhibition’s conception through to completion.
“Rachel Thomas has curated some of the most inventive, adventurous and engaging exhibitions in Europe over the past two decades, and I’m delighted that she will be bringing her distinctive vision and leadership to the Hayward Gallery.”Ralph Rugoff, Director of the Hayward Gallery
She will be responsible for establishing and maintaining creative and supportive relationships with artists, funders, and other institutions and for negotiating international tours of Hayward Gallery exhibitions. Rachel’s curatorial practice specifically focuses on feminism, post-colonialism and on broadening the representation of LGBTQ+ BIPOC artists. While at IMMA, she was responsible for ambitious group shows including: As Above, So Below, portals, visions, spirits & mystics (2017) and most recently DESIRE – A Revision from the 20th Century to the Digital Age (2019).
She has also organised many critically-acclaimed solo surveys of artists including Etel Adnan, Eleanor Antin, Frank Bowling, Sophie Calle, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Nan Goldin, Bharti Kher, Hélio Oiticica, Elizabeth Peyton and Doris Salcedo. Rachel has introduced a new strand to IMMA’s programme of new projects and commissions by international artists such as Franz Ackermann, Pierre Huyghe and Thomas Demand. She also spearheaded the recent ground-breaking virtual retrospective of artist Jorge Pardo.
Among her many accolades, Rachel has organised prestigious projects at international biennales including The Welsh Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2003 presenting Cerith Wyn Evans and she collaborated on the curation of the ninth Lyon Biennalewith Hans Ulrich Obrist. Rachel is a respected scholar who is a fellow at Trinity College Dublin and a contributor to its MA/MFA Art in the Contemporary World programme. She was awarded a Museum Association Millennium Fellowship and is pursuing research into mental health within contemporary art, the revisionist art history of female abstraction and spirituality. She is interested in indigenous artists, nature and the environment.
Rachel is a prolific writer, having published widely in journals, exhibition catalogues and art history books.
“I am excited to be joining Ralph Rugoff and the curatorial team to help shape the future of the Hayward Gallery.The inspiring architecture and its radical vision; one that is democratic, adventurous, connected to the outside world, is one that I appreciate and respect. It’s an honour to be returning home; to listen closely to communities, and to welcoming artists and audiences. I look forward to being part of the ever-vibrant, inclusive and pioneering values of the Hayward Gallery and the Southbank Centre.”Rachel Thomas