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Director of the National Museums of Scotland since 1992, Jones, 50, made his reputation at the British Museum in the late 1980s when he curated the ground-breaking exhibitions The Medal: Mirror of History and Fake? The Art of Deception. More recently, he has been praised for masterminding the opening of a £50m new wing at Edinburgh’s Royal Scottish Museum whose displays of carefully selected objects in historical context have proved a critical and popular success.

Jones’s two main rivals for the V&A were Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Portrait Gallery, and Timothy Clifford, director of the National Galleries of Scotland.

This is the second time that the flamboyant Clifford, 55, whose astute incursions into the art market have earned him many admirers in the trade, has been passed over for the V&A. With Neil McGregor showing no signs of moving from the National Gallery, the imminent retirement of Robert Anderson as Director of the British Museum may be Clifford’s last chance to become head of a major London museum.

The outgoing director of the V&A, Alan Borg, 59, has taken early retirement.