YCBA 2019–2020

Director’s Message

Portrait of museum director

Courtney J. Martin, Paul Mellon Director, Yale Center for British Art, photo by Mara Lavitt

Courtney J. Martin, Paul Mellon Director

Dear Friends:

In July 2019, I returned to one of my favorite places in the world, the Yale Center for British Art, as the Paul Mellon Director. The museum’s impressive holdings, so perfectly displayed in the elegant, light-filled spaces designed by Louis I. Kahn, have never ceased to inspire me. As the year unfurled in unforeseeable ways, however, the dedication, fortitude, and resilience of my colleagues at the YCBA and across Yale University proved even more remarkable.

The initial months of the 2019–2020 fiscal year were filled with incredible energy. Before shuttering our doors in mid-March to safeguard against the spread of COVID-19, we opened six special exhibitions and published two catalogues; added more than three hundred fifty objects; hosted lectures, performances, symposia, and tours; and shared our collections with access program participants, schoolchildren, university classes, and visitors from all over the world.

During the fall semester, graduate students in Yale’s History of Art Department curated an exhibition commemorating the bicentenary of John Ruskin (1819–1900), one of the most significant cultural figures of the nineteenth century. We welcomed back the Pulitzer Prize–winning author Hilton Als, who spoke on the occasion of a display of works by painter and writer Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, the second in a series of three successive exhibitions Als has curated with us focusing on British women artists. Our other major fall show, Migrating Worlds: The Art of the Moving Image in Britain, was the first exhibition at the museum dedicated exclusively to video art. I was pleased that Isaac Julien, one of the artists featured, returned in February to join me in conversation following a special screening of his film The Leopard (Western Union: Small Boats) (2007). And although the long-awaited exhibition Victorian Radicals: From the Pre-Raphaelites to the Arts and Crafts Movement was open for only twenty-seven days in the early spring, it was viewed by more than 6,300 visitors.

Following months of preparation, the museum launched its new website in June 2020, offering a more dynamic and user-friendly experience while also laying the groundwork for our successful transition to a robust schedule of online programming.

I am grateful to the individuals and organizations whose support made possible the activities, initiatives, and programs outlined in this report, and hope that you will enjoy reading about their impact.


Courtney J. Martin
Paul Mellon Director

By the Numbers

This report reflects activities between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020.

  • 58,787*total number of visitors to the museum

  • 2,303*schoolchildren who visited in tour groups

  • 1,268*student visitors to the Study Room

  • 51.8percentage increase in social media engagement

  • 351gifts and acquisitions

  • 1,433*hours worked by volunteers at the museum

  • 20.4percentage increase in social media followers

  • 117objects loaned to 19 venues in 5 countries

  • 45*docent-led tours of collections and architecture

*would have been higher were it not for mid-March coronavirus closure



Each year the museum adds to its collections of paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs, rare books, and manuscripts through gifts and acquisitions. Collections are available for viewing free at the museum and online. Below is a sampling of acquisitions from the year ending June 30, 2020.

Staff, Students, Volunteers


Despite the challenges posed by this unusual year, our talented staff continued to serve our collections and our community with dedication and resourcefulness. We appreciate as always the volunteers and students who enrich the museum in numerous ways.