Survey by Qualaroo

Our future

Press announcement – Monday 28 January 2019.

Arnolfini announces today that it plans to enter a new partnership with the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) as a subsidiary charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), significantly improving Arnolfini’s ongoing financial position and greatly increasing the chances of securing a new long-term funding relationship with Arts Council England. 

Since August 2017, under the leadership of Director, Claire Doherty, with the support of new and existing Trustees, and with transition funding from the linked charity Ashley Clinton Barker Mill Trust and Arts Council England, Arnolfini has undergone substantial stabilisation and transformation. 

The highlights of this transition period include: 

  • Marking the start of transition with Grayson Perry’s The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever!, which proved to be Bristol’s second most visited exhibition ever, with 191,000 visitors to Arnolfini over three months which generated an economic impact of £3m for the city. The Grayson Perry season kick-started Arnolfini’s financial recovery and its repositioning as a cultural destination with a further half million visitors to the building in 2018;
  • Establishing new commercial partnerships and attracting inward investment to the city with funding partners such as Historic England, Paul Hamlyn Foundation and 14-18NOW;
  • Building robust financial models and the foundation for the future organisation;
  • Reconnecting Arnolfini with the city’s artists and audiences – attracting back 30 new producing partners, supporting 35 artists with space-in-kind and, reawakening Arnolfini’s civic purpose, by driving forward a priority to support young people through 23 workshops with five schools, a boot camp to rewrite the nation’s constitution, and a youth-led creative studio, Now or Never, as well as leading a city-wide campaign to change employment practices in the arts through the Bristol Culture Standard.


Having successfully realised the ambitions of this transition period in her role as Director, Claire Doherty completes her 18-month contract at the end of this month. The present Board of Trustees will also hand over the reins to a new Board who will lead the next stage of transition as Arnolfini becomes a new subsidiary CIO.  Lhosa Daly, Assistant Director of Operations at The National Trust in Wales, will lead the new Board.  

The new partnership between UWE Bristol and Arnolfini will see significantly increased investment from UWE Bristol into the operating costs of Arnolfini, more flexible use of the resources of the building and a new long-term creative partnership built around a shared vision designed for the benefit of artists, students and audiences. 

Gareth Thomas, Interim Chair of the Board, said: “My thanks go firstly to Claire Doherty for her unstinting hard work and skill devoted towards giving Arnolfini a future as an economically viable, exciting and leading contributor to the arts both in Bristol and more broadly across the South West region. I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to my fellow Trustees on the Arnolfini Board, all of whom have provided diligent, conscientious and unselfish support throughout this most recent and successful stage in Arnolfini’s turnaround.”

Claire Doherty, Director of Arnolfini, said: “When I came to Arnolfini 18 months ago, my aim was to ensure the organisation’s future. I also wanted to test and open up the conversation about how Bristol’s flagship international arts house might flourish for and with the city in years to come. With the support of a hugely talented team and our Trustees, I’m immensely proud that we have managed to achieve this. Together, we’ve laid the foundation of Arnolfini’s new business model and financial stability, reconnecting the organisation with its cultural and civic purpose.” 

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education at UWE Bristol, Professor Jane Roscoe, said: “As part of our City Campus, Arnolfini provides a dynamic setting for our Digital Arts, Design and performance programmes. It is an iconic cultural institution, and we share the Arts Council England (ACE)’s desire to ensure it will thrive as an exciting visual arts organisation.  Arnolfini’s transition to becoming a subsidiary charity of UWE Bristol will enable the organisation to continue to be a place of culture, enjoyment, education and inspiration for everyone.  We look forward to working closely with ACE and the Board of Trustees to maintain and promote the vital position it holds in the cultural landscape of Bristol and in the wider visual arts scene in the region.” 

Phil Gibby, Area Director South West, Arts Council England said: “We welcome Arnolfini’s announcement and believe it will pave the way for a new future, with the organisation once again at the heart of Bristol’s cultural and civic life.  The Bristol Visual Arts Review set out to achieve a sustainable, long term step change for the visual arts in Bristol and one of the primary recommendations was to invest in a significant programme of exhibitions, projects and events in Bush House.  The University of the West of England and Arnolfini supported by Arts Council England have been in conversation since April 2018 to find a shared artistic vision and appropriate governance structure that can help underpin this.  We are delighted that a way forward has been agreed and believe this partnership offers the best opportunity to secure the long-term future of Arnolfini and for seeing a transformative and internationally significant visual arts programme for Bristol and the West of England. 

“We particularly want to acknowledge the valuable work that Claire Doherty has done over a sustained period.  Claire departs leaving solid foundations in place for Arnolfini to maximise its potential in Bristol and on the national and international stage.  As the organisation transitions to a new governance model, we also want to thank all the Trustees of Arnolfini for their diligence and hard work to secure an exciting future.” 

Press enquiries to: 

Arnolfini, Claire Skelcey, Communications Manager, at

0117 917 2300

Arts Council England –

0117 989 7777                                 
07989 430881    

Listen to Claire Doherty’s ground-breaking podcast series in which she reimagines the role of a 21st century arts organisation - Imagine New Rules.
Read The Guardian Mark Brown’s interview with Claire Doherty 1 Jan 2018.