The Board of V&A Dundee have appointed Leonie Bell as the new Director of V&A Dundee.
Leonie is currently Strategic Lead for the Future Paisley Partnership at Renfrewshire Council. In this role she leads Paisley’s ambitious cultural regeneration plans following on from its UK City of Culture Bid. Future Paisley is a wide-ranging programme that builds on the town’s design heritage with a £110 million investment to transform its future.
As one of Scotland’s most experienced cultural leaders, Leonie has worked in a diverse range of roles and organisational settings, advocating for the transformative potential of culture and creativity across society. Her experience includes leadership and senior management in local and national government, national agencies and in the culture sector. She also chairs the Advisory Board of Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art and is a trustee of the Edinburgh International Festival.
Leonie began her career at Glasgow 1999: UK City of Architecture & Design before becoming Programme Director at The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture, Design & the City. In this role she led an ambitious programme of exhibitions, festivals and events that celebrated and advocated for design and its importance locally, nationally and internationally.
Leonie was previously the Head of Culture Strategy & Engagement at the Scottish Government where she developed Scotland’s first cultural strategy in over 10 years. Before joining the Scottish Government she was Director of Arts & Engagement at Creative Scotland, overseeing major funding programmes, developing arts strategy and supporting art form sector reviews. Leonie led Scotland’s national cultural programmes for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Leonie replaces Philip Long OBE, Founding Director, who led the development of V&A Dundee, Scotland’s first design museum, from its early planning to successful opening in September 2018. Philip recently took over the role of Chief Executive of National Trust for Scotland.
Announcing the appointment, Tim Allan, Chair of V&A Dundee’s Board, said: “We are delighted that Leonie has accepted this leading role at V&A Dundee, leading its awakening from the COVID 19 lockdown into a new era. She is a very experienced, charismatic leader with a passionate background in design and what it can do for communities and places as well as enhancing our position in the world.
“Leonie was born in Dundee and grew up in nearby Fife. She has real authenticity, knowledge, energy and understanding of the museum, its importance to Dundee and Scotland, and of the cultural sector in Scotland and the UK.”
Leonie Bell said: “I am delighted and honoured to have been appointed Director of V&A Dundee. I am looking forward to working with the Board, the team, the museum’s partners and the people of Dundee to further establish V&A Dundee as a world class design museum for Scotland. Like so many, I have watched V&A Dundee flourish in its first two years, and it is a huge privilege to lead the museum into its next phase.
“V&A Dundee is an emblem of the city’s design and industrial heritage and a bright beacon for its future. The spectacular building is situated on one of the most beautiful estuaries and in one of UK’s most ambitious and creative cities. The museum celebrates the designed world and through its programme it enriches and inspires, drawing people in and reaching out across Dundee, Scotland and the world. Its role now is greater than ever. The way we live, work, gather, communicate, share, learn and play is changing.
“The role of design in navigating this future is fundamental and V&A Dundee, with the wider design community, has a critical role to play as we adapt to, and debate, the ideas, influences and social and economic challenges of our time.”
Culture Secretary, Fiona Hyslop, said: "I congratulate Leonie Bell on her appointment as Director. She brings excellent cultural leadership to V&A Dundee in its next phase of development and the Scottish Government looks forward to working with her.”
Councillor John Alexander, Dundee City Council Leader, said: “This is a fantastic appointment for both V&A Dundee and the city and I wish Leonie all the best in her work for the future.
“Our design museum has played an integral part in Dundee’s ambitious transformation. I am excited about the next stages of its development to engage with local communities and attract visitors to the city.
“V&A Dundee and our cultural sector are crucial to the city’s recovery as we move out of lockdown. I am heartened by the determination that these partners are showing to meet the challenges we are facing.”
Tim Reeve, Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer, V&A, said: “The economic and social impact of Scotland’s first design museum has been a source of enormous pride for the V&A. Leonie brings the leadership experience needed for this crucial next stage in V&A Dundee’s development, with a personal commitment to the museum’s mission, an ambitious vision for design as a force for good and an instinct for collaboration and partnership at a local, national and international level.”