Art historian and curator named director of Yale’s Paul Mellon Centre
Sarah Victoria Turner, an art historian and curator who specializes in the cultural relationships between Britain and India, has been appointed director of Yale’s Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, a London-based educational charity and research institute committed to promoting original, world-class research into the history of British art and architecture.
Turner is the institute’s sixth director and the first woman to lead the organization since its founding in 1970. She worked at the Centre for nine years, initially as its assistant director for research, and subsequently as its deputy director. She served as acting director beginning in March 2023 and took up the directorship permanently on July 1.
“I am delighted to announce the appointment of Sarah Victoria Turner,” said Susan Gibbons, vice provost for collections and scholarly communication at Yale and ex-officio chief executive of the Paul Mellon Centre. “Her energy and passion for collaboration as a scholar and curator, and her strong leadership skills, make her an exceptional appointee.”
The sister institution to the Yale Center for British Art, the Centre publishes scholarship and supports research and teaching at its headquarters and online. Its archives, London library, and programming are open to researchers, students, and the public. Its grants and fellowships support institutions and individuals with research projects, publications, exhibitions, and events.
Through her work at the Centre, Turner has overseen numerous innovative programs and collaborative projects with partners in the United Kingdom and internationally, including establishing a national art writing competition, Write on Art, with the educational charity Art UK; co-leading the London-Asia research project; and co-writing and co-hosting the “Sculpting Lives” podcast. She is editor-in-chief of the award-winning, open-access journal British Art Studies. She has also provided oversight of the Centre’s archive and library, digital activities, book and online publications, and research program.
As an art historian, Turner has published widely and has co-curated several major exhibitions, and much of her writing has focused on the entangled relationships between Britain, the British Empire, and South Asia.
“I am thrilled to be leading an outstanding team of people at the Paul Mellon Centre,” Turner said. “I look forward to working closely with the Yale community, particularly our partner institution, the Yale Center for British Art, to take the Centre forward in its mission to promote activities that expand and enhance understandings of British art.”
Turner aims to share the Centre’s resources as widely as possible and to start new conversations, ideas and narratives about the histories of British art, she said.
“I am excited about the future direction of work that the Centre will shape and support,” she said. “As director, I will be a vocal champion for the value of art and architectural history and research on visual culture more broadly in helping us navigate some of the most complex questions of our time.”
Courtney J. Martin, Paul Mellon Director of the Yale Center for British Art, said: “Sarah is an insightful colleague who is committed to upholding the legacy of our institutions’ shared founder and benefactor. Under her guidance, the Paul Mellon Centre will further realize the potential of its amazing resources by engaging new audiences in the study and appreciation of British art.”
Turner studied history of art at Pembroke College, Cambridge. She earned a master’s degree in sculpture studies at the University of Leeds, which is run in partnership with the Henry Moore Institute, and then completed her Ph.D. at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She began her academic career at the University of York, first as a teaching fellow and then as a lecturer in the Department of History of Art.