Between 1980 and 1988, Bowness was Director of the Tate Gallery, realising the long-desired expansion of the site at Millbank with the creation of the Clore Wing dedicated to the work of J.M.W. Turner. Bowness was also responsible for the creation of the outpost Tate Liverpool, both projects being achieved through gifts from charitable trusts. At a time when the public grant to the Tate had been capped, Bowness established two supporters groups to fund the purchase of new work and set up the Turner Prize to promote contemporary British artists. His acquisitions for the Tate collection included Surrealist and American artworks. He also set Tate St Ives in motion by fostering links with the Cornish town of St Ives, a location favoured by many artists, where he had set up the Barbara Hepworth Museum in 1976.
As a curator Bowness' main area of interest was British modern art — he has close personal links with both the Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth families (he is married to Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth's daughter Sarah) — and during his directorship the Tate's temporary programme concentrated on artists from this area. After retiring from the Tate, Bowness was director of the Henry Moore Foundation and set up the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, Yorkshire. He was knighted in the 1988 New Year Honours. He is also an Honorary Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge.
| Director of the Tate Gallery