The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation

The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation was created by Sir Denis in his lifetime.  It aims to continue his philanthropic work, his art historical research and his passionate promotion of young scholars, students and artists.  It promotes his art collection and lifelong work and studies to the general public, and organises exhibitions.   The Foundation supports museums, and  endows two annual prizes for young scholars and artists, The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize, and a drawing prize at The Royal Drawing School, the Mahon Award. In 2020, we instituted the Sir Denis Mahon Sculptural Project Grant in collaboration with City & Guilds of London Art School, another initiative to honour his memory.

The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation has supported a number of other activities over recent years including a donation to the Bowes Museum in conjunction with their exhibition “The Power and the Virtue: Guido Reni’s Death of Lucretia” (25 October 2019 – 20 January 2020); supported the Foundling Museum with the restoration of one of their paintings; made a donation to the Pinacoteca di Cento, following the earthquake in 2012 and sponsored a Guercino Lecture organised in 2017 for the restoration of the fresco ceiling painted by Guercino at Piacenza Cathedral. The Foundation co-sponsored the publication of a revised edition of Salerno’s Monograph on the Paintings of Guercino by Nicholas Turner; sponsored a Baroque Masterpieces exhibition in the Diocese of Novara; made donations to the Art Fund for the London University Student Art Pass, for the purchase of the Van Dyck self-portrait, for a catalogue of Baroque and late Baroque Art by the University of Oxford; and for the recent purchase of a major painting for the National Gallery.

We also work with museums and galleries, and promote cultural events and exhibitions.

Due to Covid 19 we had to postpone the opening of our exhibition Time {𝜏} and Eternal Life at Cromwell Place, from 20 May – 4 July 2020 to 5 October – 22 November 2020  which we further extended until 20 December 2020. The exhibition, promoted by The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation and Flat Time House, in collaboration with Bowman Sculpture, Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Lisson Gallery, Robilant + Voena and Royal Museums Turin, spanned over five millennia, exploring the concept of Time and of Eternal life from Antiquity to the Modern Era.

Between 30 January – 8 March 2020, we collaborated with Flat Time House in the exhibition William Blake at Flat Time House.

Our previous exhibition Visions and Visionaries, in collaboration with the Bologna-based Association Age of Future, Flat Time House  and Richard Saltoun Gallery was shown at Guildhall Art Gallery, London (11 December 2018 – 30 April 2019. The exhibition created a narrative of the Visionary movement from the artists who laid the foundations of the genre, to the avant-garde generation and contemporary artists that drew from these works and were inspired to find new forms in their art.  In June/July 2019 Visionaries and the Art of Performance was shown at the Festival of the Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.

In 2018, together with Museum of the Order of St John, we organised the exhibition Techno Medioevo Age of Future Reloaded and a Study Day “The Language and meaning of Time in Art and Science”, in association with the Bologna-based group Age of Future and young academics from the Universities of Bologna, Imperial College and Cambridge.

Our exhibition Bice Visconti: Drawings and Sketchbooks from the Great War, was first shown at 48 Millbank in 2017, and subsequently at the National Gallery of Ireland until 3 February 2019.

The funding and placement of Sir Denis’s Archive and Library at the National Gallery of Ireland remains a major ongoing project for the Foundation.

The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation also endows two annual prizes for young scholars and artists, the Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize, and The Mahon Award, a drawing prize at The Royal Drawing School, and an annual grant (for 3 years), The Sir Denis Mahon Sculptural Project Grant, at City & Guilds of London Art School.

The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize

The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize is an annual prize for young scholars to write on the periods of art that Sir Denis studied or on subjects that he was interested in, with a presentational lecture of the winning essay at a renowned public institution. The Prize comprises an award of £2,000 for an essay of distinction which reflects Sir Denis’ interest in the period of art from the Seicento (17th century) and in particular the work of Guercino, Carracci, Caravaggio and Nicolas Poussin, or his other art historical interests including the 15th and 16th centuries and also certain key modern, post war and contemporary artists. The winning essay is presented at a renowned British or European institution, which so far have included the Ashmolean Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Pinacoteca di Cento, the National Gallery of Ireland, the Museum of the Order of St John, the  British Museum and the National Gallery, London.

The Sir Denis Mahon Award

This prestigious award was created to honour the memory of Sir Denis Mahon and his lifelong passion for painting and drawing. During his lifetime he was a great supporter of the Royal Drawing School (formerly The Prince’s Drawing School) and this annual award was created to give a recent graduate of The Drawing year the opportunity to continue to focus on drawing from observation and to develop their work. A prize of £10,000 is awarded to an outgoing Drawing Year student each year to enable them to continue their practice as an artist, it runs from March to March and the award goes towards a studio space for the duration of the year as well as a solo exhibition.

The Sir Denis Mahon Sculptural Project Grant

This new grant was created in 2020 to honour the memory of Sir Denis Mahon and to continue his legacy and lifelong interests in fine art, carving and conservation. This £5,000 annual grant (for 3 years) has been created to support a student in their final year of study at City & Guilds of London Art School to realise a sculpture project, which will encourage the students to be ambitious in their work, regardless of financial circumstances. It is open to submissions annually from second year BA students of Conservation, Carving and Fine Art working with sculpture for use in their final year. They are invited to submit their applications (which should reflect Sir Denis’ studies, research and interests) to the Art School for the Grant and between one and three students will then be selected for recommendation to the Sir Denis Mahon Foundation for consideration.

The Trustees

The Trustees of The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation are presently:

Orietta Benocci Adam

Orietta Benocci Adam, a trustee of The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation, acts as the artistic director, project manager, and art exhibition organiser for the Foundation. She is also a director of British Friends of the National Gallery of Ireland.

She has promoted a range of exhibitions and artistic projects, coordinates scholars and artists, curates art catalogues and collaborates with museums, art collectors and private galleries. Orietta worked for many years as an investment banker in the City of London, covering marketing roles for several financial institutions, including Mitsubishi Bank (now Mitsubishi UFJ); Credit Suisse First Boston and Bankgesellschaft Berlin.

Alan Bryant

Alan Bryant is a trustee of The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation and was until the end of 2018 a Senior Associate of Charles Russell Speechlys LLP. He retired from the Firm in December 2018. He specialises in trust administration, both private and charitable, as well as probate and personal tax. Alan has vast experience of dealing with trust and probate accounts, charitable trust accounts and other Charity Commission compliance procedures. He has advised banks and trust companies on trust and probate issues.

Suzanne Marriott

Suzanne Marriott is a partner of Charles Russell Speechlys LLP and a trustee of The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation. She specialises in cross border and UK tax planning, wills, trusts, contentious trusts and probates, Inheritance Act claims, estate and succession planning, international wills and trusts, and Art law.

Suzanne is also a Notary Public practising in the City of London.  She has a strong interest in art, and acts as a trustee for other charitable trusts, including The Willie And Mabel Morris Charitable Trust, The Baily Thomas Charitable Fund, The Rix-Thompson-Rothenberg Foundation, Gainsborough House and the British Friends of the National Gallery of Ireland.


Previous Trustees have included Dr Christopher Brown, former director of The Ashmolean Museum and Sir Hugh Leggatt (1925-2014) a notable scholar, art dealer and philanthropist.

Present scholars and advisors of the Sir Denis Mahon Foundation

Gareth Bell Jones

He is Director/Curator of Flat Time House, a gallery and archive in the former home of the great post-war conceptual artist John Latham(1921-2006). He is an associate lecturer and assessor for MA Curating and Collections at Chelsea School of Art . He is the editor of NO IT journal and he is well-known for his avant-garde reviews and contributions.

Prof David Ekserdjian

Prof Ekserdjian is The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation Official Delegate of the Centro di Studi Internazionale, il Guercino – Cento, Italy. He is Professor of History of Art and Film, University of Leicester and a former trustee of the National Gallery in London.

He is a world-renowned authority on Italian Renaissance paintings and drawings, with particular specialities in the artists Correggio and Parmigianino. He is also an expert on the history of collecting and an adviser to international museums and galleries such as the National Gallery and Tate Britain, as well as private collectors.

Francesco Gonzales

Prof Gonzales is a member of the Ufficio Beni Culturali Ecclesiastici della Diocesi di Novara. He was responsible for the reorganisation of the Pinacoteca dell’Accademia Albertina in Turin, the Collection Real Collegio Carlo Alberto di Moncalieri in Turin, and the Archivio Fotografico della Soprintendenza del Piemonte, as well as curating many important exhibitions. A well-known scholar, he has collaborated with The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation since its inception.

Prof Marcello Pecchioli

Prof. Marcello Pecchioli sadly died on 2 February 2021. He was a Professor of Philosophy of Science and History of New Media at the Academy of Brera in Milan and at the Academy of Arts in Naples. He collaborated with the University of Bologna, where he had a Chair in Modern and Contemporary Art History. He was a cinematographic and multimedia critic, a writer, a film-maker and the leader of Age of Future, a group of conceptual artists.

Dr John T Spike

He is an American art historian, curator, and author, specializing in the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods. He is also a prominent contemporary art critic and past director of the Florence Biennale. Dr Spike was Deputy Director, Muscarelle Museum of Art, The College of William and Mary, USA.

Collaborators and Artists

Emma Braid-Taylor is P.A. to the Sir Denis Mahon Foundation.

Leonardo Passeri is an artist who studied at the Central Saint Martin’s School of Arts and focuses on experimentation and avant-garde art.  Passeri is also a graphic designer.


The Sir Denis Mahon Foundation is an advocate and champion of young scholars. Some of the following scholars, who collaborate with the Foundation, were past recipients or candidates of The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize.

Luke Farey is presently research coordinator for Piano Nobile, a gallery specialising in modern British art. He studied Art History at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge and the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Dr. Edward Payne is Assistant Professor in Art History before 1750 at Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark. He was previously Assistant Professor (Research); Pemberton Fellowship for the Study of Spanish Art, Zurbarán Centre for Spanish and Latin American Art ; School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University. Dr. Payne was the first recipient of The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize in 2012 and he was a member of the Judging Panel of the Prize in 2019.

Magnus Rena recently graduated in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, receiving the Director’s Prize for his final dissertation. He was the 2018 winner of the Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize. He regularly writes catalogue and exhibition texts for artists, art foundations and art galleries. He has co-curated exhibitions, the most recent of which was “The Bard : William Blake at Flat Time House” (30 January – 8 March 2020).

Saskia Rubin, the 2017 Winner of The Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize,  is a PhD candidate studying Art History at The Courtauld Institute of Art. She recently completed a Michael Bromberg Fellowship in the Prints and Drawings department at the British Museum.

Henry Whaley studies Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art.