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Beatrix Ruf.

New Report Clears Former Stedelijk Director Beatrix Ruf of Wrongdoing

Beatrix Ruf, the embattled former director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam who vacated her post in October 2017—after she came under fire for running an advisory service and for her lack of transparency regarding donations made to the publicly funded institution—has been “wrongly accused,” an independent report finds.

Commissioned by the Municipality of Amsterdam, the 120-page document, which was partially leaked to the local broadcaster AT5 earlier today, was not supposed to be released until June 26. The report was authored by a team of legal researchers who launched an investigation into the management of the Stedelijk shortly after the Dutch press alleged that Ruf’s advisory business, Currentmatters, posed a conflict of interest with the museum.

Led by Sjoerd Eisma, a former lawyer and a member of the Kröller-Müller Museum’s recommendation committee, and Jan Peeters, a former judge, the investigative team found that while Ruf should have been more transparent about the remuneration she had been receiving from her professional work outside of the museum, it did not compromise her leadership of the Stedelijk.

“The income generated directly and indirectly in the limited company came exclusively from organizations where Mrs. Ruf held an approved ancillary position,” the report said. It also stated that there is no reason to doubt Ruf’s integrity. However, it added, she did not seem to have understood that “her function should not only be exercised in accordance with the wording of the governance regulations, but also in the spirit of the regulations.”

Ruf resigned under pressure after the Dutch newspaper NRC reported that her business earned $513,961 during the first year of her tenure at the Stedelijk—earnings that Ruf said came from activities conducted before she took up the post of director—and alleged that she wasn’t forthcoming about a donation of six hundred works from German collector Thomas Borgmann, which turned out to be only a partial gift. In order to receive the donation, Ruf had to agree to stipulations, which included the purchase of seven additional works from Borgmann. Questions were also raised regarding the museum’s exhibition program, which seemed to focus on artists whom Ruf worked with regularly.

Following Ruf’s sudden departure, a spokesperson urged the public to keep in mind that the press reports were “pure speculations.” Ruf later told the New York Times that the controversy over her business was a “misunderstanding” and that all of her activities were approved by the museum’s supervisory board.

In February, more than one hundred artists signed a petition calling for Ruf to be reinstated as director of the museum. Among those who came to her defense were artists Marina Abramović, Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, and Richard Serra, and museum directors Bart Rutten of the Centraal Museum in Utrecht and Jacqueline Grandjean of Oude Kerk in Amsterdam.

Jan Willem Sieburgh has been serving as interim business director of the Stedelijk since Ruf stepped down. The report is currently being reviewed by Amsterdam’s mayor and alderman. It is unclear whether the Stedelijk will eventually take steps to restore Ruf to her former position. The museum said that it will not release a statement regarding the report until the findings have been made public. 

[Update:]

Three members of the Stedelijk Museum’s supervisory board have since announced that they are resigning. “In the best interests of the museum, it is time to bring the recent turmoil to an end and start afresh,” interim board chair Madeleine de Cock Buning and Jos van Rooijen wrote in letter. “After due consideration of the report and its findings, and with a view to the museum’s interests, we intend to step down as members of the supervisory board.”

Cees de Bruin will assume the role of interim board chair until a new one can be appointed. De Bruin and the remaining board members—Joyce Sylvester, Willem de Rooij, and Ronald Hans—will work to help “restore order and stability” at the museum.

In response, to the findings of the report, Ruf released the following statement: “I am gratified the independent investigators have cleared me completely. Contrary to stories in the press, the independent investigators concluded I always acted with integrity; all side activities were approved; and I never ran an art consulting business on the side. . .But above all, I was touched most by their conclusion that I always put my heart and soul into the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Because I did.”

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