In a surprise turn of events, a team of legal researchers has issued a 120-page report that could exonerate embattled former Stedelijk director Beatrix Ruf, who resigned from the museum amid allegations that her private art consultancy posed conflicts of interest with the museum. The document was due to be released in full on June 26, but was partially leaked to the Amsterdam broadcaster AT5 today.
Although the report says that Ruf should have been more transparent about the remuneration she was receiving from outside professional activities, this did not pose a conflict of interest to the publicly funded museum, according to the AT5 report.
“The income generated directly and indirectly in the limited company came exclusively from organizations where Mrs. Ruf held an approved ancillary position,” says the research group, which is headed by Sjoerd Eisma, a former lawyer and member of the Kröller-Müller Museum’s recommendation committee, and former judge Jan Peeters. The study was was commissioned by the Municipality of Amsterdam late last year, after being itself initiated by the museum itself following Ruf’s resignation.
The researchers said they had no reason to doubt, Ruf’s “integrity” as the museum’s director, but added that “she does not always seem to have understood that her function must be performed not only in accordance with the wording of the governance rules, but also, and above all, in the spirit of the rules.”
A representative for the Stedelijk told artnet News that they had no comment on the report, or on another recent article in a Dutch news outlet that criticized the supervisory board’s leadership. “For the sake of consistency, the museum will make no statement until the investigation findings have gone public, and the Municipal Executive has given its official reaction to the report and the recommendations of the Amsterdam Kunstraad,” the representative said.
The acting chairwoman of the museum’s supervisory board, Madeline de Cock Buning, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
The report could have significant implications for the museum’s supervisory board if they are found to have abused their power. Amsterdam’s municipal executives are discussing the new report today, according to AT5.
Ruf resigned from the Stedelijk in October after reports surfaced with details about her private art consulting. The local newspaper NRC Handelsblad revealed that during her first year as director, Ruf received around $500,000 as a private advisor and had not included this in the museum’s annual reports.
The revelation raised questions about whether there was a serious conflict of interest between her private business and her government-subsidized career, which only earned her around $130,000.
NRC Handelsblad also reported that Ruf had struck a deal for the Stedelijk to receive a gift of works from the German collector and dealer Thomas Borgmann. But the donation of 200 works was actually contingent upon the museum purchasing seven further works from Borgmann for €1.5 million. This transaction was initially absent from the Stedelijk’s annual report.
In an interview with the New York Times in November, Ruf said that her additional income was legitimate. “Many people wrongly assumed these profits came from side activities conducted in 2015 while I was artistic director of the Stedelijk Museum,” she told the newspaper. “In fact, this profit statement reflects legitimate income from activities conducted before 2015, primarily a parting bonus for past work from the Ringier Collection in the amount of 1 million Swiss Francs.”
In late February, a group of art world heavyweights demanded in a public advertisement that Ruf be reinstated at the museum. Whether or not that happens, it seems likely that at the museum is likely to deepen. A second study, headed by administrative law professor Tom Barkhuysen, is still underway to investigate issues of compliance and income-declaration regulations.
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