Vienna’s Belvedere Museum Dismisses Director Agnes Husslein-Arco

After admitting violations of internal codes of conduct and compliance, the longtime director of Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, Agnes Husslein-Arco has been dismissed, Monopol reports. She will stay on as director of the institution through 2016, until the end of her contract.

Thomas Drozda, Austria’s Minister of Culture, announced her dismissal on July 27. He said that the museum’s management will be reorganized, beginning 2017. “With its current personal and organizational structure, I don’t see a possibility for the museum to return to normality and to its past successes.” Drozda has posted the open position for a new artistic and commercial director.

According to Der Standart and Die Presse, Husslein-Arco was accused of violating the institution’s compliance rules, including taking items from museum shop, declaring them as marketing presents; charging the museum the costs of repairs to her private home (at times used by guests of the Belvedere); using museum personal for private services; and expense account irregularities. In a meeting with the museum’s board of trustees, Husslein-Arco admitted her transgressions and offered to personally repay the costs. The controversy was further exacerbated by a $145,000 fee billed by an outside auditing company, hired by the board to investigate the case. “To charge a six-figure fee is completely incomprehensible to me. Certainly the museum will not pay this amount,” Drozda said.

The complaint against Husslein-Arco was filed by the museum’s accountant, Ulrike Gruber-Mikulcik, one day after Husslein-Arco’s contract renewal as artistic and commercial director was announced. Gruber-Mikulcik had expected to become the new commercial director and intended to form a co-leadership role within the museum. Instead, after reporting Husslein-Arco’s irregularities, which Gruber-Mikulcik had signed-off on, she was fired last week.

Husslein-Arco, a former professional figure skater, was previously the managing director of Sotheby’s in Austria and the director of the Salzburg Rupertinum. She arrived at the Belvedere in 2007 and is credited with revitalizing the Belvedere Museum and transforming it into a key tourist attraction for Vienna.

When asked for a statement by the Austrian news agency APA, Husslein-Arco replied: “I accept the decision of Minister of Culture Thomas Drozda with regret.”