Art World Luminaries Outraged Over Lorenzo Benedetti’s Dismissal from De Appel
De Appel’s curatorial tutors withdraw seeking the board’s resignation.
The entire team of tutors at the De Appel’s Curatorial Program in Amsterdam—formed by an illustrious group of curators and museum directors including Charles Esche, Elena Filipovic, Chus Martinez, and Beatrix Ruf—has demanded the resignation of the Dutch institution’s board, and has withdrawn from the program until the board complies.
This is the latest protest action in support of Lorenzo Benedetti, who was abruptly fired in September from his post as curator and director of the institution after a short tenure of just over year, much to the dismay of both the Dutch and international art communities.
In a letter sent to the board of De Appel last Thursday—and shared with artnet News—the entire team of tutors at the institution’s prestigious curatorial course announced their withdrawal:
“Dear Chair and Members of the Board of De Appel Art Centre,
As tutors on the Curatorial Program, we have followed the course of events around the suspension of director Lorenzo Benedetti with increasing alarm. As individuals who have been engaged with De Appel for up to 20 years, we have great loyalty to the institution and we cannot stand by while its reputation and capacity is brought low in the eyes of the national and international art community.
We have written to you privately asking for an explanation of the situation and we had hoped to hear arguments for why we should continue to support the board. Your failure to respond until now, combined with the manner in which you have handled both the process leading to the suspension and the public debate which followed have sadly tested our loyalty to breaking point.
With heavy hearts, we therefore have no alternative but to withdraw our cooperation with De Appel for so long as the current members of the board remain in place. We are convinced that your continuing presence will only make matters worse. You have lost all trust from the art field and can no longer be expected to provide the means necessary to revive the institution, something that is now urgently required.
Upon your resignation, we would be happy resume our responsibilities to the students of the Curatorial Program and to do our collective best to stabilize and rebuild De Appel over the medium term.
Liesbeth Bik, artist, member of collective Bik Van der Pol
Thomas Boutoux, curator and writer
Charles Esche, Director Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
Annie Fletcher, Chief Curator Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
Elena Filipovic, Director Kunsthalle Basel
Chus Martinez, Curator en Head of A.I. at FHNW Academy, Basel
Beatrix Ruf, Director Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Henk Slager, dean MaHKU Utrecht and curator
Lisette Smits, curator
Barbara Visser, artist and Chair Akademie van Kunsten/KNAW”
The collective withdrawal follows a petition in support of Benedetti that a group of 76 renowned artists—including Ahmet Öğüt, Falke Pisano, Francesco Pedraglio, Joep van Lieshout, Lara Almarcegui, Laurent Grasso, Mark Manders, Michael Dean, Rossella Biscotti, and Wendelien van Oldenborgh—launched on October 5, requesting, among other things:
“-A De Appel that does not succumb to the political pressures to commercialize and which is able to set its own artistic course.
-A reconsideration of the board’s decision to fire Benedetti so that he will be given the time he needs to develop and realize his artistic program, which we are more than curious about.
-Last but not least we call for a fundamental discussion about the influence of Dutch subsidy politics on the centers of contemporary art that we all hold so dear.”
Subsequently, hundreds of additional signatories—including top curators such as Maria Lind and gallerists such as Ellen de Bruijne—joined the petition, some of them posting messages of support towards Benedetti.
Lore Gablier, an independent curator and editor, and program officer at the European Cultural Foundation, left a message comparing the situation with the crisis that is currently taking place at the MAGASIN Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble, France, which also runs a prestigious program of educational courses.
“As the former coordinator of the École du MAGASIN in Grenoble, I am very concerned with the fragilization of the most progressive and independent art centers and courses. We also recently posted online the following petition that wishes to endorse the autonomy of the École du MAGASIN. I think that both our initiatives are very similar.”
Meanwhile, the French dealer Mario Canal, complained about the lack of artistic experience and focus of the current members in De Appel’s board:
“THIS IS DE APPEL BOARD: Where are the artists? Where are the professionals of contemporary art? The gallerists? The collectors? The critics? The curators? Not at the board of De Appel… Alexandra Van Hufflen CEO Amsterdam Public Transport System-GVB. Wouter Han Managing Director & Co-head at Lazard Benelux (financial advisory and asset management firm). Suzanne Oxenaar Cofounder of restaurant Supperclub and artistic director of The Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy. Benno Tempel Director of Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and jury of the reality show The nieuwe Rembrandt, Avro TV. Hermine Voute Partner at Loyens & Loeff. Attorney at law, is chairwoman of the Employment Taxes and Employment Law practice group. She specialises in employment law, with the emphasis on collective dismissals, employee representation, and collective bargaining.”
When contacted for comment, Lorenzo Benedetti told artnet News that he couldn’t give any for the moment.
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