Axel Rüger Appointed New Secretary and Chief Executive of RA

Posted in museums by Editor on February 20, 2019

Press release (13 February 2019) from the RA:

The Royal Academy of Arts announced today that Axel Rüger has been appointed as the new Secretary and Chief Executive. He replaces Sir Charles Saumarez Smith who stepped down at the end of 2018. Rüger is currently the Director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

Rüger spent his early career in museums in the US, before becoming curator of Dutch Paintings at the National Gallery, London in 1999. He has been Director of the Van Gogh Museum since 2006 and, during his tenure, has made it one of the most successful museums internationally. Rüger’s appointment has been approved by the Royal Academy’s Council, General Assembly, and Her Majesty The Queen. He will start his new role at the Royal Academy in June 2019.

Axel Rüger said: “It is a great honour for me to have been asked to become the new Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy. The RA derives its unique character from being independent and artist-led and I greatly look forward to working with the Royal Academicians as well as the dedicated staff to develop further the standing of the RA at home and abroad. Following the 250th anniversary and the RA’s recent expansion, it feels like the Academy is now ready to embark on a new and exhilarating chapter in its rich history. I am excited about the opportunity to join at this critical moment and to work to tell great stories through ambitious and varied exhibitions, innovative programmes and debate and, more generally, to make the RA, its activities and collections ever more accessible to audiences from around the globe.”

Christopher Le Brun, President of the Royal Academy of Arts, said: “I am delighted that Axel Rüger will be joining the Academy as our new Secretary and Chief Executive in June. His appointment coincides with a moment in history when the international reputation of the Academy has never been higher. Axel is the perfect fit. His success at the Van Gogh Museum is highly acclaimed, and he is widely acknowledged as one of the leading directors of his generation. His experience, both in the UK and abroad, makes him ideally suited to work alongside our distinguished Royal Academicians and staff in guiding the RA towards a highly promising future and I am very much looking forward to working with him.”

Rebecca Salter, Keeper of the Royal Academy, said: “Axel Rüger brings with him a wealth of experience, which will enhance the profile and independent character of the Royal Academy. I know my fellow Academicians and all our staff will enjoy working with him as we continue to explore the potential of our new campus and shape the Royal Academy for the future.”

Axel Rüger was born in 1968 in Dortmund, Germany. He studied art history at the Freie Universität in Berlin, the University of Cambridge, and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Ruger worked in various museums in Atlanta, Detroit, and Washington D.C. before he was appointed Curator of Dutch Paintings, 1600–1800, at the National Gallery in London in 1999. He curated a number of international exhibitions for the National Gallery including Vermeer and the Delft School (2001), Aelbert Cuyp (2002), and Masterpieces of Seventeenth-Century Dutch Portrait Painting (2007).

In 2004, whilst still at the National Gallery, he was selected to take part in the first year of the then newly created Clore Leadership Programme—a high level initiative of the Clore Duffield Foundation, which focuses on the development of leadership in the cultural sector. Part of that programme was a four-month secondment to the Royal Court Theatre in London.

In 2006 Rüger became the Director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and The Mesdag Collection in The Hague. At the Van Gogh Museum, he has been primarily responsible for artistic direction and public affairs. He completed various research projects such as the new complete edition of Van Gogh’s letters (2009) and has been responsible for the new display of the collection and numerous exhibitions.

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