Southbank’s Bengi Unsal to be new ICA director

Bengi Unsal, the Southbank Centre’s head of music, is to be the next director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, succeeding Stefan Kalmar.

She will start in March and become only the second woman to do the job.

Kalmar stepped down last year after five years saying the ICA needed a fresh perspective.

“‘We are living through a time that is challenging everything we know about work, life, the world, our connectivity. In a time of such questioning, it is vital that the space for culture, art, and expression is safeguarded to help us make sense of it all” she said. “We need our cultural institutions to be the platforms which allow artists to do just that. Artists of today are genre-fluid and connected, their expression limited only by their imaginations. The ICA, with the diversity of its spaces and specialists, can become a home for these artists to create and inspire; a space where our rapidly evolving communities are more truthfully represented and welcomed; a hub for creative encounters.”

Udal is expected to build on the ICA’s recent innovation of night-time programming, with commissions and live performances. Before joining the Southbank in 2016 Udal ran Salon IKSV, Istanbul’s multi-arts venue.

The ICA’s chair, Wolfgang Tillmans, whose first appointment this is since he took the role in 2019, said Udal was taking over at a crucial time in the institution’s history, its 75th year. “Bengi has already started developing and sharing her ideas and plans on how she will shape a programme across all artforms and all areas of our building, taking the organisation back to its multidisciplinary heyday with a programme rooted firmly in the here and now” he said. “I can’t wait to see what she brings to the ICA”.



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