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German V&A chief departs early over Brexit disillusionment


The Guardian reports that the Martin Roth, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s director of five years, will leave his position early due to disillusionment over Brexit “war rhetoric.” While Roth had already planned to depart his post, the timing was apparently hastened by Brexit politics. Mark Brown has the story for the Guardian in partial below, in full via the Guardian.

The V&A has confirmed its German director is to leave his role this autumn after five years, a decision hastened by his disillusionment over the British vote to leave the EU.

The London museum said Roth will devote more time “to various international cultural consultancies” as well as his wife Harriet and their children in Berlin and Vancouver.

The Guardian understands that Roth had always intended to stand down in the next year but two factors seem to have played a decision in the timing. One was the Brexit vote, which he was profoundly against. The other was the V&A winning the 2016 museum of the year, which meant he could leave on a high.

In interviews with the German broadcaster DW, Roth said the vote to leave the EU felt like a “personal defeat” and he had been particularly upset to hear aggressive “war rhetoric” during the referendum campaign.

Roth, 61, said on Monday: “It’s been an enormous privilege and tremendously exciting to lead this great museum, with its outstanding staff and collections. I’m proud to have steered it to new successes and a period of growth and expansion, including new partnerships around the UK and internationally.

“Our recent accolade as Art Fund museum of the year feels like the perfect moment to draw to a close my mission in London and hand over to a new director to take the V&A forward to an exciting future.”

Roth had been passionate in his views on Brexit and the tone of the debate. In one interview he said: “What happened to tolerance, solidarity and charity? And I’m not a dreamer. I’m just talking about basic values – manners that are part of our upbringing and connect us. Where are they now?

“That doesn’t just go for England. The same thing is happening in France with [Marine] Le Pen, and in Germany with the AfD party. A ‘me-first’ mentality has suddenly started to spread – and it is brutal.

“I can understand that people ask: how should we deal with Brussels? But it seems crazy to me that this question should lead to smashing everything else. It is destroying the future of our children. That’s sad. A majority of older people have voted for the Brexit, while the younger generation wants to remain in the EU. That means the elderly have stolen the youth’s future.”

One source at the V&A said Brexit was not the overriding reason for leaving but it helped decide the timing. “Martin has so many contacts and interests around the world he wanted to find more time for those and genuinely spend more time at home with the kids and Harriet,” the source said.