While the appointment is still to be confirmed – it has to be approved by the prime minister, Theresa May – the report states that her name has been put forward to the government by the Tate trustees.
Asked to confirm the story, a Tate spokesperson responded: “There has been no announcement and the process is ongoing.”
The recruitment of a successor to Serota began in September when it was announced that he is standing down later this year after 28 years in the role. He takes up a new, part-time position as Arts Council England chair in February.
Many had tipped Balshaw as a likely candidate for the top job at Tate, due to her success in Manchester.
Appointed director of the Whitworth in 2006, in 2011 she also became head of Manchester City Art Galleries, including Manchester Art Gallery in the city centre. The position was the result of a new partnership between the University of Manchester (which runs the Whitworth) and Manchester City Council.
Balshaw has overseen a £15 million redevelopment project at The Whitworth, the results of which have been universally praised. Reopened in February 2015, in July of the same year the gallery won the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year award.
The expanded gallery has also been a big hit with the public, taking just three months to break its previous annual visitors record with 181,000 visitors in 14 weeks.
Balshaw’s role in Manchester has undoubtedly made her the most influential player in the city’s visual arts sector, and in 2014 she took on the role of strategic lead on culture for the city council. In 2015 she was awarded a CBE in Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Balshaw has also played an important part in the success of Manchester International Festival. For the second edition of the biennial festival in 2009, the Whitworth hosted Marina Abramovic Presents…, for which much of the gallery’s collection was cleared to make way for a curated group show featuring four hours of live art by a variety of international artists. Both the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery have continued to be key festival venues.
While well regarded in the visual arts for her ability to make things happen, Balshaw also has her detractors. In 2014, an open letter signed by over 80 Manchester-based artists called on more to be done by the city’s public galleries to support and develop the visual arts ecology.
Balshaw’s new job heading up Tate would see her having overall responsibility for Tate Modern, Tate Britain, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives. Her success in Manchester has clearly prepared her for such a huge, overarching role – regarded by many as the most important position in UK visual arts.
1. Maria Balshaw. Photo: Katia Porter
2. Central exhibition gallery, The Whitworth Art Gallery, Cornelia Parker exhibition. Photo: David Levene