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Achim Borchardt-Hume. Photo: Tate.
Achim Borchardt-Hume. Photo: Tate.

Achim Borchardt-Hume (1965–2021)

Achim Borchardt-Hume, who since 2012 served as director of exhibitions at Tate Modern, London, has died. Tate announced the news on their website. No cause of death was disclosed. Borchardt-Hume had most recently organized Anicka Yi’s Turbine Hall commission. Opening in October, the exhibition featured floating machine sculptures, which the artist describes as “aerobes,” and scentscapes, which change weekly. The curator also put together the museum’s Auguste Rodin exhibition, currently on view, which explores the sculptor’s use of plaster.

Borchardt-Hume was born in Düren, Germany, in 1965, leaving that city as a teenager to study art in Bonn and then in Rome. In 1992, he moved to London, earning his Ph.D. from Essex University in England, where he focused on the art and politics of Fascist Italy. After working at London’s Serpentine Gallery and Barbican Art Gallery, he joined Tate in 2005 as curator of modern and contemporary art, the following year presenting the well-regarded “Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World.” Two years later, he organized Tate’s groundbreaking Rothko survey. In 2009, he departed for London’s Whitechapel Gallery, taking on the role of chief curator, which had been specially created for him. Interviewed regarding his departure, he emphasized his arrival at Whitechapel, rather than his leaving Tate. “I’d like to slightly take the emphasis away from this idea that institutions are necessarily competing with each other,” he told The Art Newspaper’s Rosie Spencer that year. While at Whitechapel, he presented shows by artists including Zarina Bhimji, Mel Bochner, Giuseppe Penone, Walid Raad, and Wilhelm Sasnal. He returned to Tate in 2012, this time as director of exhibitions and programs. That same year, he organized Gerhard Richter’s exhibition at the Beirut Art Center, giving the artist his first show in Lebanon.

Over the course of his career, which additionally included exhibitions by Alexander Calder, Robert Rauschenberg, and Doris Salcedo, Borchardt-Hume gained a reputation as a careful curator who treated the artists he exhibited with respect while remaining open to ideas and ever mindful of reaching a broader audience. If there’s anything I’ve learned,” he told Spencer, “it’s that there is never a single audience, and that when you think about the visitor, you need to be quite careful that you don’t make too many assumptions about who that should be. Fundamentally there should be a sense of respect for any person that may come to you, otherwise it becomes rather patronizing and simplifying.” Borchardt-Hume additionally helmed Tate’s museum’s Black, Asian, and minority ethnic network.

“Achim leaves behind an extraordinary legacy, not just at Tate Modern, but across the international art world,” Tate wrote in a statement. “We are heartbroken.”