De Appel Board Resigns Over Firing of Director Lorenzo Benedetti

The highly unusual step follows months of drama.

Lorenzo Benedetti. Photo via YouTube.

In a dramatic step, the entire board of Amsterdam’s De Appel Arts Center has resigned over an ongoing dispute following the recent firing of the institution’s director. The showdown has seen petitions and boycotts, which appear to have been successful in ousting the institution’s leadership.

According to an announcement on the institution’s website, “The decision was made in part due to the developments surrounding the dismissal of director [Lorenzo] Benedetti.”

That same board fired Benedetti in September 2015, after just a year on the job. The Amsterdam District Court ruled that different interpretations of the role of director were the principal reason, though the board had complained about a lack of leadership skills and an inability to carry out the institution’s mission, according to Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblatt.

Photo courtesy De Appel.

Photo courtesy De Appel.

The move was greeted with forceful protest from prominent museum directors and artists.

The entire staff of educators at the institution’s curatorial training program, including Charles Esche, Elena Filipovic, and Beatrix Ruf, called for the board’s resignation, and boycotted the program in protest. In an open letter, the museum directors said the institution was “brought low in the eyes of the national and international art community” by the board’s actions.

A group of 76 artists, including Ahmet Öğüt, Falke Pisano, Lara AlmarceguiLaurent Grasso, and Mark Manders, signed a petition calling on the board to reconsider Benedetti’s dismissal, citing his “extraordinary qualities” and “outstanding track record.”

The exiting board’s leadership consists of Alexandra van Huffelen, CEO of Amsterdam transportation firm GVB, who was chairwoman, and Wouter Han, managing director at finance firm Lazard Benelux, who was treasurer. The board also included Suzanne Oxenaar, artistic director at Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, Amsterdam; Benno Tempel, director of the Gemeentemuseum, the Hague; and Hermine Voûte, an attorney with Amsterdam firm Loyens & Loeff.

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