Wim Pijbes Surprises Art World by Resigning From Private Museum Three Weeks After Opening

It was shocking when he moved from the Rijksmuseum. Now he's done it again.

Wim Pijbes. Photo by Vincent Mentzel.

Ending a brief three-month tenure as general director of the just-opened Museum Voorlinden, Wim Pijbes announced on September 27 that he would be stepping down from his position. He will, however, remain on the museum’s board.

Back in March, Pijbes, who had been at the helm of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for nearly eight years, surprised the art world when he decided to leave the high-profile position and join  Museum Voorlinden, a new private museum dedicated to the collection of chemical industry magnate Joop van Caldenborgh, located in a suburb of the Hague.

He took up the new position in July, ahead of the new museum’s public opening on September 10. But less than three weeks into the opening, Pijbes decided to step down. In a telephone interview with the New York Times, Pijbes explained that he and van Caldenborgh had different visions for the museum’s future.

“It’s about expectations and reality,” He told the New York Times. “[W]e both agreed that we were both not happy with how it was going. I offered to step aside.”

Pijbes commented on his decision to remain on the museum’s board, saying “I felt I had more freedom to advise Joop and to bring added value to the museum as a board member. We did not want to spoil our friendship.”

Less than two weeks before his resignation, Pijbes gave an interview to the Art Newspaper where he described his work with the private museum as a “dream job.” With a collection of some 10,000 artworks, the museum’s holdings include works by Richard Artschwager, Sylvie Fleury, Dan Graham, Henry Moore, Tom Otterness, and Giuseppe Penone. The museum is adjacent to van Caldenborgh’s home, and the 40-hectare grounds are dotted with a James Turrell “Skyspace” and a steel sculpture by Richard Serra.

Pijbes told the NYT he does not yet know what his next move would be.

The museum did not reply to a request for comment at the time of writing. From October 1, Suzanne Swarts, the museum’s artistic director, will take over as managing director.


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