Director of Vienna’s Belvedere Museum Dismissed Over Misconduct

Agnes Husslein-Arco admitted to having violated professional standards.

Vienna's Belvedere Museum. Photo by Belvedere, Wien, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Austria license.

The director’s job at Vienna’s Belvedere Museum will become vacant in 2017. Austria’s culture minister Thomas Drozda announced on Wednesday, July 27, that the contract of outgoing director Agnes Husslein-Arco will not be renewed due to violations of internal codes of conduct and compliance standards.

According to the Hamburger Abendblatt, Husslein-Arco was found to have charged inadmissible expenses to the museum, as well as hiring museum employees for private services. The payments were reportedly sanctioned by museum accountant Ulrike Gruber-Mikulcik, who was fired last week.

In a meeting with the board of trustees, Husslein-Arco acknowledged her wrongdoing and offered to repay the damages, a figure reported to be in the region of €13,000 to €30,000 ($14,300 to $33,000). But the board’s attempt to shed more light on the matter led to a much larger bill to foot: The auditing company charged €130,000 ($143,000) for an internal compliance report, which was the last straw.

“With the current staff and structure I can’t see the museum returning to normality and building on its past successes,” Drozda explained.  As for the outstanding bill of €130,000 for the auditors, he commented, “how they arrived at a six-figure sum is totally incomprehensible. You can be sure that this amount won’t be paid,” he added.

After her admission of wrongdoing the board of trustees voted in favor of allowing Husslein-Arco to remain in her position until her contract runs out because of “undeniable achievements” in her 10-year tenure as director. “I accept the decision of the Federal Minister Thomas Drozda with regret,” Husslein-Arco told the Austrian press agency APA.

Meanwhile, Der Standard reported that culture minister Drozda appointed Dieter Bogner as executive director to work alongside the outgoing director until her contract expires at the end of the year.

During her tenure Husslein-Arco gained a reputation as a headstrong and resolute director, often criticized for her confrontational approach. However, the former director of Sotheby’s Austria and Salzburg’s Rupertinum undeniably revitalized the institution and positioned the Belvedere Museum as a must-see attraction in Vienna.

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