Arts Council Collection appoints Deborah Smith as its new Director

10 August 2020

Deborah Smith has been appointed Director of the Arts Council Collection and will be taking up her new post on 7 September.

Deborah is a highly respected curator with an impressive track record in contemporary art. For the past two decades she has worked across interdisciplinary practices to commission art, curate exhibitions, and develop public programmes in partnership and collaboration with a wide range of artists and organisations. Deborah has worked with major international contemporary arts organisations as Head of Programmes (Interim) at the Contemporary Arts Society and Head of Programmes (Interim) at Serpentine Galleries, and is already familiar with the work of the Collection, having worked for three years at Birmingham Museums Trust as Curator for the Arts Council Collection’s National Partners Programme. During this tenure Deborah was responsible for acclaimed exhibitions including I Want! I Want! Art and Technology, 'Totality' by Katie Paterson at Thinktank, Birmingham's Science Museum and Rachel McLean’s Too Cute! Sweet is about to get sinister.

Previously, Deborah held a position as Curator for Hayward Gallery Touring where she conceptualised and initiated the Hayward Curatorial Open (still ongoing) and co-curated a number of touring exhibitions. Amongst her many other career highlights is the first UK touring exhibition of African-American artist Kerry James Marshall; her role as Associate Curator to the Norfolk & Norwich Festival and as co-director of Smith + Fowle. Deborah’s current work has been with Invisible Dust, the art and science organisation, and curating a forthcoming exhibition in 2021 at Chapter, Cardiff.

Deborah was awarded a Stanley Picker Fellowship in 2006. She currently sits on the board of IKT - The International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art and is also an active Steering Group member for Intoart - a South London studio championing the work of artists with learning disabilities.


Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery, said: “I am delighted to welcome Deborah Smith to the Arts Council Collection team. Deborah’s diverse experience in exhibition making and commissioning artists as well as her fresh thinking and deep understanding of the Collection’s public role make her the ideal person for this role. Whether it’s the acquisition of relevant and important work for the nation or working with cultural organisations across the country to develop innovative new ways to ensure that the Collection serves and enriches the widest possible audience, Deborah’s highly collaborative approach is just what the ACC needs at this key point in its history as it approaches its 75th anniversary year." 

Peter Heslip, Director, Visual Arts and Brighton, Arts Council England, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Deborah Smith as Director of the Arts Council Collection. Our Collection is important to so many living artists through its national collecting and exhibiting programme and Deborah has a singular track record supporting artists. Her previous ACC exhibitions in Birmingham were hugely successful and she brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the regional gallery sector. I look forward to seeing the Arts Council Collection continue to flourish under her guidance, reaching more people, in more places across the country.”

Deborah Smith, incoming Director of Arts Council Collection said: “It’s an honour to take the helm of the Arts Council Collection and I look forward to working with the team and partner organisations to create a programme of exhibitions and acquisitions where our collective and audience outlook is transformed through artists and their perspectives on the world.”

Deborah Smith succeeds Jill Constantine who was Director until May 2020, having stepped down after more than 40 years of service to the Collection. 


The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.