Chris Dercon Leaves Tate Modern To Direct Berlin’s Volksbühne Theater

Now it's official.

Chris Dercon
Image: via

The rumors that have been swirling across the European art industry in the past month were true: Chris Dercon is leaving the directorship of Tate Modern to take charge of the Berlin-based Volksbühne Theatre (see Is Chris Dercon Leaving Tate Modern To Head a Theater in Berlin?).

The appointment will be officially announced this afternoon in Germany, the Guardian reports. Dercon will take up the role in 2017, after the contract of Frank Castorf, who’s been director of the theatre for the past 25 years, finishes.

This means that Dercon will leave Tate Modern after six years in charge. He replaced Vicente Todolí, who had been at the helm of Tate Modern for seven years, in 2011.

The confirmation of Dercon’s departure comes hot on the heels of the announcement that Penelope Curtis, director of Tate Britain, will leave the museum to direct the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, leaving behind a controversial tenure (see Penelope Curtis Leaves Tate Britain for Calouste Gulbenkian Museum after Highly Criticized 5-Year Tenure).

“For the Tate to lose one of its museum directors in London may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness,” Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor, wrote this morning about the news. “Not a word many would associate with Sir Nicholas Serota, the fastidious and austere boss of the Tate group of galleries. But there is little doubt that Chris Dercon’s decision to leave Tate Modern for Berlin’s experimental Volksbühne Theatre will be seen as a significant blow to the organisation,” he added.

To add insult to injury, this is the second A-list museum director that will swap London for Berlin in the coming years. In the beginning of April, Neil MacGregor announced that he would be stepping down as director of the British Museum (see British Museum Director Neil MacGregor To Step Down at the End of the Year). It later transpired that he had been lured to take a key role in the ambitious Humboldt Forum project in Berlin, the Guardian reported.

Despite the upheaval, Dercon’s commitment to stay at Tate Modern until 2017, where he will continue overseeing the museum’s extension project, seems to suggest that his departure is amicable.

Meanwhile in Berlin, Dercon’s appointment has been greeted with significant skepticism. Although Dercon holds a degree in theater studies, he has never directed a theater house.

According to Die Zeit, several high-profile directors, including Claus Peymann, outgoing head of the Berliner Ensemble, are concerned that Dercon’s appointment could transform the historic Volksbühne into a “festival house.”

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