The Southbank Centre head of contemporary music Bengi Ünsal will join the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) as director, becoming the second woman to lead the organisation and the first in 55 years.

The first director appointed under the chairmanship of Wolfgang Tillmans, Ünsal will start in March as the ICA celebrates its landmark 75th anniversary.

Ünsal joined the Southbank Centre in 2016 and was responsible for a year-round programme of more than 200 contemporary performances. Her responsibilities included overseeing the annual artist-curated Meltdown festival.

Before that Ünsal was artistic and managing director of Istanbul’s live performance and multi-arts venue, Salon IKSV. She is also a trustee of the Music Venue Trust and the Nest Collective.

Ünsal, who takes over from Stefan Kalmár, said, “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. We need our cultural institutions to be the platforms which allow artists to do just that.”

Tillmans said, “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.”