CIMAM expresses its deep concern at Ralf Beil's termination of contract by the Board of Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

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Ralf Beil

4 March 2019

CIMAM is greatly concerned about the abrupt termination of Ralf Beil’s employment with the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, one year before the end date of his current contract. This unfortunate state of affairs comes as a surprise to those that have followed the evolution of the KMW under his artistic leadership. Exhibitions such as Never Ending Stories, Facing India, Robert Lebeck. 1968 have made an impact in the international art world, and the accompanying publications are evidence of the broad cultural vision and social awareness defining the intellectual practice of Ralf Beil.

Under Beil, the museum developed its international reputation, as well as increasing its visitor numbers and national media coverage. In only four years, Beil achieved the objectives of an international museum director – curating memorable exhibitions, building new audiences and overseeing the renovation of the museum’s buildings. The fact that his contract has been terminated with no preliminary warning, with no explanation and with the instruction for him to leave the premises within 24 hours, raises serious questions about the professional ethics of the governing body of the Museum.

KMW’s status is a private entity financed by Kunststiftung Volkswagen and it is a member of CIMAM. CIMAM is the representative body of international museums of contemporary art and is governed by the ICOM code of ethics. KMW is also, notwithstanding its financial status, an institution created for the public good intended to facilitate engagement with contemporary art and ideas. Institutions operating in the public realm are expected to meet the highest standards of transparent governance. The stance of the governing body of KMW who have refused to address the enquiry into the matter sent by the CIMAM Museum Watch Committee, or inform CIMAM of the reasons behind its decision, is inappropriate for an institution of this nature and a source of great concern.

CIMAM considers the situation at KMW as another manifestation of the increasing pressure being exercised by governing bodies on museum directors and curators. We bring this case to the attention of our colleagues and the wider public as an example of the threat posed to museums by the censorship of ideas and programmes by governing bodies, the very people who are supposed to encourage, promote and protect the institutions they lead. Finally, we condemn the manner with which the governing body of KMW has managed the abrupt termination of Ralf Beil’s contract.

Monday, 4 March 2019

The Museum Watch Committee of the CIMAM Board 2017–2019: Bart De Baere, Jaroslaw Suchan, Calin Dan, Sunjung Kim, and Sarah Glennie.

CIMAM – International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art – is an affiliated organization of ICOM.

Related Articles:

→ Art Critique, by Katherine Keener, 27 March 2019. CIMAM states their deep concern over Ralf Beil’s December termination from the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

→ Hyperallergic, by Jasmine Weber, 8 March 2019. Week in Review: Tehran Museum Accused of Flipping Artwork, Art Institutions Prep for Brexit

→ NDR, 26 February 2019, New museum chief in Wolfsburg: Critical or not?