George Osborne, an investment banker and former editor of the Evening Standard, has been named the new chair of the board of trustees of the British Museum. On social media, the appointment generated an outcry because of Osborne’s history of cutting funding for the arts in the United Kingdom.
The appointment was unanimously approved by the museum’s chair search committee, which is comprised of seven trustees and led by Minouche Shafik, one of the Board’s deputy chairs. Osborne will join the board on September 1, and is slated to succeed Sir Richard Lambert as chair on October 4.
In a statement Osborne said, “All my life I have loved the British Museum. To my mind, it is quite simply the greatest museum in the world. It’s a place that brings cultures together and tells the story of our common humanity.”
“Together with my colleagues I look forward to working with George to continue to ensure that the British Museum is the most innovative, accessible, and inspiring museum of the world, for the world,” Hartwig Fischer, the institution’s director, said in a statement.
Osborne is currently a partner at Robey Warshaw, a London-based investment bank. From 2010 to 2016, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and from 2015 to 2016, he was Secretary of State.
As Chancellor, Osborne was involved in efforts to slash arts funding. In 2010, he cut the budget of the Arts Council England by 30 percent, causing widespread controversy in the art sector.
On Twitter, many expressed sadness over Osborne’s appointment. Laura Cumming, an art critic for the Observer, wrote, “Hard to be more disappointed, dismayed and discouraged.” Alex Needham, the arts editor of the Guardian, wrote, “After what he did to Britain itself, there’s something truly outrageous about the fact that George Osborne is now chair of the British Museum. In a just world he would be pelted with rotted tomatoes every time he left the house.”