Sir Charles Robert Saumarez Smith CBE is a Senior Director of Blain|Southern, a contemporary gallery with spaces in both London and Berlin. From 2007 to 2018, he was Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts.
A British cultural historian specialising in the history of art, design and architecture, he is known for his contributions as a cultural commentator, an author of books and articles, a lecturer, and an academic, with regular appearances on television and radio. He has been a judge for the Stirling Prize for Architecture, the BP Portrait Award, the World Architecture Fair in Singapore and most recently as a member of the Frieze Selection Committee . He is widely sought after for his expertise on art, architecture and museums. Sir Charles is currently a trustee and board member of The Watercolour World and the Garden Museum, and has been of The Royal Drawing School, The Public Catalogue Foundation and Charleston. He is a visiting Professor of Cultural History at Queen Mary University of London. To see his upcoming appearances click here.
In his time at the Royal Academy of Arts, Sir Charles was responsible for the renovation of the Keeper’s House and the opening of Burlington Gardens, the new buildings of the RA, including a major fund-raising campaign and successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund in the lead-up to the RA’s 250th anniversary in 2018. Sir Charles was awarded a CBE in 2008 and was knighted in 2018.
Sir Charles was Director of the National Gallery from 2002 to 2007, responsible for many major exhibitions, including Titian, Rubens, El Greco, late Caravaggio and Velazquez, and the Director of the National Portrait Gallery from 1994 to 2002 where he rose to prominence for staging exhibitions by contemporary photographers, including Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon, Bruce Weber and fashion photographer Mario Testino, and where he presided over the building of the critically acclaimed Ondaatje Wing. Sir Charles’ most celebrated success in his directorship at the National Gallery was the purchase of Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks in 2004 for £22 million.
Sir Charles was educated at Marlborough and King’s College, Cambridge, where he was a scholar and was awarded a double first in History and History of Art. After graduating, he spent a year at Harvard University as a Henry Fellow studying at the Fogg Art Museum and then returned to the Warburg Institute as a postgraduate student.
In 1979, he was elected Christie’s Research Fellow at Christ’s College, Cambridge and, in 1982, he joined the staff of the Victoria and Albert Museum as an Assistant Keeper with special responsibility for V&A/RCA MA in the History of Design. In 1990, he was appointed Head of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum.