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Stedelijk Museum Director Beatrix Ruf Steps Down Amid Controversy

Beatrix Ruf has stepped down as director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, writes Gareth Harris of the Art Newspaper. For the past two weeks, Ruf has been heavily criticized by the Dutch media for running her own advisory business while at the helm of the institution. The press has alleged that her company is a conflict of interest and may have interfered with her management of the museum.

Earlier this month, the Dutch paper NRC investigated Ruf’s private art-advisory firm, Currentmatters. Registered in Switzerland, the company was not included on the list of her external activities in the museum’s annual report. The business netted $513,961 during the first year of her directorship.

According to NRC, Ruf was also not transparent about donations made to the museum. It reported that a donation of six hundred works last year from German collector Thomas Borgmann was only a partial gift. In order to receive the contribution, the institution agreed to a contract stipulating that the museum had to buy an additional six works by German artist Michael Krebber, as well as an installation by Matt Mullican. Ultimately, the museum will spend $1.76 million on the donation. The paper also alleged that many of the exhibitions mounted at the museum since the beginning of Ruf’s tenure have featured a small circle of artists with ties to galleries that Ruf regularly works with.

In a statement issued by the museum, Ruf resigned because of “the speculation in the media.” It added that the reports “may have an impact on the reputation of the museum.” In response, a spokesperson for Ruf asked the public to “bear in mind that press reports are pure speculations,” and that “the only fact is that Ruf has decided to step down in the interest of the museum today.”

“We have brought some beautiful collections to Amsterdam and engaged with society,” said Ruf. “I wish the museum all the success in the future . . . For me, the museum is more important than myself as an individual.” Ruf started at the Stedelijk a little more than three years ago. Her duties will be handed over to an interim business director and the institution’s current management team.