In a Bizarre Statement to Press, the Stedelijk Museum and Former Director Beatrix Ruf Vow to Let Bygones Be Bygones

The embattled former director says her time at the museum can now become “a happy memory.”

Beatrix Ruf in 2014. Photo by Michael Stewart/Getty Images.

What happens when a museum director and a museum’s overseers feud, and then make up? One answer arrived in the form of an odd press release issued today by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which made it clear once and for all that the dispute that led to the ouster of its former director, Beatrix Ruf, had come to an end.  

“After close consultation, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and its former director, Beatrix Ruf, have agreed to leave the past behind,” the statement reads. It was issued following meetings between Ruf and the museum’s supervisory board chair, Truze Lodder.

Beatrix Ruf abruptly stepped down as director of the Amsterdam museum in October 2017 amid accusations that her activities as an independent consultant posed a conflict of interest with her directorship. She came under fire in Dutch media over a lack of transparency in her negotiations with major donors and her decision to continue to operate an art advisory service while she served as the museum’s director. Ruf wrote at the time that she chose to resign “in the interest of the museum” and its reputation. Jan Willem Sieburgh has taken on the role of interim managing director while the museum searches for a permanent replacement. 

More than seven months after Ruf’s departure, a team of independent legal researchers issued a 120-page report that exonerated her of wrongdoing. Soon afterward, three board members resigned from their positions and a petition from art world power players advocated for Ruf’s reinstatement. 

The statement issued by the Stedelijk today confirms that Ruf will not return to the museum in the role of advisor or director. But, it adds, “she may… be invited to be involved in a specific exhibition or in other museum projects, under the responsibility of a future, as yet unappointed, artistic director.” A spokesperson for the museum declined to further elaborate on this statement for artnet News, but said that the new director’s appointment should be expected sometime this year.

In the statement to the press, board chair Lodder emphasized that the investigation had cleared Ruf of all the allegations reported in the media. “The report showed that Beatrix Ruf acted with integrity… all of her side activities were approved by the then Supervisory Board,” Lodder writes. “She has always put her heart and soul into the museum, and provided an impetus to the current artistic policy. In the future, the museum will treat her with the respect to which a former director of the Stedelijk is entitled.”

For her part, Ruf is happy to close the book on the controversy. “My time as a director was one of the most rewarding chapters of my life and now, with this exoneration, it can become a happy memory,” Ruf says in a statement. “I am confident that the Stedelijk has a bright future ahead of it. And, if asked to do so, as former director I would of course be more than happy to make a small contribution to that every now and then.” Contacted by artnet News, a spokeswoman for Ruf declined to drop any further hints as to what might be in the pipeline.

The Amsterdam museum welcomed some 700,000 visitors in 2018. Its most popular exhibitions were the rehang of its permanent collection, “STEDELIJK BASE,” which was initiated by Ruf, as well as high-tech art and design duo Studio Drift’s survey, which drew 263,000 visitors over the summer.

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