Exhibitions were Joanna Drew’s life. She began her impressive career at the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1952 and during the next forty years organised an extraordinarily diverse range of exhibitions across time and cultures, from prehistoric art to contemporary art, folk art and high art, the 150 exhibitions she made for the Arts Council (and, later, the Hayward Gallery) included the sensational Picasso exhibition held at the Tate Gallery in 1960 – the world’s first blockbuster show – and other landmark exhibitions at the Tate and at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Academy, the ICA and elsewhere in London and the UK.
Between 1975 and 1992 Joanna Drew was successively Director of Exhibitions and Director of Art at the Arts Council and finally Director of the Hayward Gallery, which had become the leading UK venue for thematic exhibitions of western and non-western art and monographic exhibitions from Matisse (1968) and Anthony Caro (1969), through Renoir (1985) and Leonardo da Vinci (1989) to Toulouse-Lautrec (1990) and Bridget Riley (1969 and 1992).
Much of Caroline Hancock’s account of Joanna Drew’s life and work is drawn from memories of her colleagues, contemporaries and friends. It also features Joanna Drew’s own perspective on exhibition making – and her recollections of working with Picasso, Miró, Max Ernst, Jean Arp, Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg and many other artists – as voiced in her extensive interviews for the British Library’s National Life Stories, made in 2002. Interspersing the main narrative are tributes from some of the people who worked alongside her.