2022 Booker Prize Judge (Chair)
Neil MacGregor is a British cultural historian, broadcaster and writer.
He grew up in Glasgow, studied Modern Languages at Oxford then – in 1968 – 18th century French literature in Paris. He was called to the Bar in Edinburgh and went on to study History of Art at the Courtauld Institute, where he worked closely with Anthony Blunt and Anita Brookner, both — as he observes — art historians with unusually developed skills in constructing fictions. He edited The Burlington Magazine before becoming, in 1987, Director of the National Gallery in London. During his tenure there he fought to maintain free public access to great paintings and made a number of BBC television series touching on works in the collection. His book, Seeing Salvation: Images of Christ in Art, was published in 2000.
He left the National Gallery in 2002 to become Director of the British Museum, where he remained until 2015. In that time, he wrote and presented several influential books and series for BBC Radio 4: the seminal A History of the World in 100 Objects; Shakespeare’s Restless World, which used objects as a key to understanding the concerns of Shakespeare’s public; and Germany: Memories of a Nation, which was published 100 years after the outbreak of World War I and aimed to recover narratives of that country that went beyond the two wars. During this period, he also sat on the board of the National Theatre; his continuing preoccupation has been to make available to the widest public objects and stories that make sense of the world, take us into the minds of others, and reveal the ways in which our apparently discrete histories interconnect.
From 2015 to 2018 MacGregor was Founding Director of the Humboldt Forum, Berlin. He is now International Advisor to the J. Paul Getty Foundation in Los Angeles and to the CSMVS Museum in Mumbai. At the end of 2021 he held the Chaire du Louvre at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, giving a series of public lectures about museums and their constantly changing relation to history and society. The lectures have been published as À monde nouveau, nouveaux musées.