Amidst Accusations of Conflict of Interest, Stedelijk Museum Director Beatrix Ruf Resigns

Beatrix Ruf.


Following reports of various forms of conflict of interest, Beatrix Ruf has resigned from her post as director of the Stedelik Museum in Amsterdam. She had been curator and director there since 2014.

In her three years at the museum, Ruf became known for her contemporary-art programming, which included a range of major exhibitions, from mid-career surveys of Seth Price and Isa Genzken to an initiative that put on smaller shows of work by emerging artists. In 2015, the organization Independent Curators International gave Ruf the Agnes Gund Curatorial Award for her work at the Stedelijk.

But recent reports from the Dutch publication NRC have colored Ruf’s positive reputation. (The articles, which are in Dutch and paywalled, can be accessed here.) Earlier this month, the newspaper reported that Ruf had failed disclose details surrounding a 600-work donation from Thomas Borgmann, which, the report found, benefited a group of galleries that Ruf has regularly worked with at the Stedelijk as well as during her tenure at the Kunsthalle Zurich, where she was director from 2001 to 2014. Fines and clauses written into the museum’s contract ensured that work by artists represented by these galleries, among them Genzken, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Cosima von Bonin, would stay on view for certain periods of time.

Another NRC report detailed Ruf’s work outside of the Stedelijk, which included running an art advisory firm called Currentmatters. The profits Ruf made from the firm did not appear on the Stedelijk’s annual report.

In a statement, Ruf said she resigned from her position to avoid hurting the way the public perceived the Stedelijk. “Having served the Stedelijk Museum for the past three years, I have come to know it as a wonderful institute,” she said. “We brought extraordinary collections to Amsterdam and significantly deepened our relevance to society and our communities. I value the interests of this outstanding institution, and place the interests of the Stedelijk first, above my own, individual concerns. In light of that, I feel that this is an appropriate moment for me to step down. I wish the museum every success in the future because that is what the Stedelijk, its exceptionally dedicated staff, visitors, and supporters, wholeheartedly deserve.”

A news release from the Stedelijk said that the museum will now evaluate the ethics of its dealings over the past few years. University of Amsterdam professor Jaap van Slooten and an additional expert will oversee two separate panels. They will investigate the legality of Ruf’s outside income and the soundness of the museum’s policies, respectively. Until the museum finds a new director, an interim business director and the Stedelijk’s management team will take over for Ruf.

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