Chris Dercon as Tate Modern's new director

Outgoing director Vicente Todoli is off to seek new challenges


Belgian Chris Dercon (right) has been named the new director of London’s Tate Modern, coming from Munich’s Haus der Kunst. He replaces Vicente Todoli, whose last day at the museum was yesterday. A surprise appointment, Dercon is the third continental European director of Tate Modern. Lars Nittve (1998-2001), from Sweden, left surprisingly soon after the opening of the museum in 2000. His successor, the Spaniard Todoli (2001-10), announced his resignation last March, on the grounds that it was time for new challenges.

Dercon, aged 52, began his career at New York’s MoMA PS1 (1988-89). He then became the first director of the Witte de With contemporary art centre (1990-95) and later the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum (1996-2003), both in Rotterdam. He has been at the Haus der Kunst since 2003 where he oversaw an ambitious exhibition programme and undertook a massive refurbishment of the building.

One of the main challenges at Tate Modern will be to raise money for the planned Herzog & de Meuron extension. Dercon knows the architects well, having mounted a show on their work and employed them for the renovations on the Haus der Kunst. Tate Modern’s project is costed at £215m, of which £77m has so far been raised. The extension is expected to be completed by 2012, but it may take longer.

Commitments in Munich mean that Dercon will be joining the Tate in spring 2011. In the meantime, Nick Serota is acting director of Tate Modern, as well as overall head of Tate.

“Tate has hired a very intriguing exhibition organiser. Chris [Dercon] put Munich on the map in the international exhibition circuit. He made the city a lively place, particularly for contemporary art. He is excellent at working with artists—that is one of his strengths. Being a successful fundraiser is a challenge, particularly for an outsider.” Wim Pijbes, general director, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

“Chris Dercon is energetic, philosophical and rather fashionable. What is important is down-to-earth history of art; someone like Beuys cannot be dismissed as old-fashioned. Museums should resist fashion. Dercon should also make some deal with Nick Serota over who plays what role.” Rudi Fuchs, independent curator and former director, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

“Chris [Dercon] is a surprise appointment. He is good at creating impressive exhibitions and events. It was a difficult job to transform the Haus der Kunst, but he got on well in Munich society and made the gallery into a great exhibition centre. Tate Modern is very different, with a collection.” Martin Roth, director, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden [or Dresden Museums]

“I think the appointment of Chris Dercon is A Spectacular Good Choice.” Anthony d’Offay, former art dealer and Artist Rooms founder

“He has such varied and rich experience—it’s going to be great for London.” Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director, exhibitions and programmes, Serpentine Gallery, London

“He’s always held to a radical agenda. He will be a great addition to the London artistic scene and his resonance will be felt beyond Tate.” Anish Kapoor, artist

“He’s one of the best curators because he looks at art in a very special, sometimes unexpected, way. He doesn’t just do the obvious, fancy thing. We will definitely see ambitious projects.” Philomene Magers, co-director, Sprüth Magers, Berlin

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Tate Modern bound'