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Royal Academy of Arts

Axel Rüger, director of Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, appointed new chief executive of Royal Academy

He succeeds Charles Saumarez Smith who stepped down in July 2018

Axel Rüger Courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum

Axel Rüger has been appointed as the new secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy of Arts (RA), it was announced today. Rüger moves to the RA from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam where he has served as director since 2006.

Rüger previously served as the curator of Dutch paintings (1600-1800) at the National Gallery in London from 1999-2006. During this period, he took part in the first year of the Clore Leadership Programme—an initiative aimed to develop leadership skills in the cultural sector. He will join the RA in June 2019.

The appointment follows a landmark year for the RA, which marked its 250th anniversary in 2018 with a re-development and expansion of its campus. Last year also saw the former secretary and chief executive of the RA Charles Saumarez Smith leave after 11 years at what he said to be “a time of obvious strength and success” to join Blain Southern gallery as its senior director.

In a statement released by the RA today, Axel Rüger says: “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.”

Described by the RA’s president Christopher Le Brun as “one of the leading directors of his generation”, during Rüger’s tenure The Van Gogh Museum placed second, behind only the Louvre, in a 2017 study on the reputation of the world’s most famous art museums conducted by Erasmus University.

Jaap Winter, chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Van Gogh Museum released a statement today that the museum will be “searching for a new director shortly” and until then, will be “in good hands with its managing director Adriaan Dönszelmann”.