In spite of controversy, the popular museum’s long time director has been reappointed for another five years.
In office since 1999 Klaus Albrecht Schröder was reappointed (Mar 30) by Minister of Culture Gernot Blümel (ÖVP), after his successful hearing before the selection committee of leading figures in the arts scene.
The committee – including Jürgen Meindl, arts and culture director in the Federal Chancellery, Albertina board Chairman Christian Konrad and head of the Berlin Institute for Museum Research, Bernhard Graf – is seen as a “tightknit group of insiders,” according to Der Standard’s Stefan Weiss, whose decision was expected. According to various media reports, only nine applications were reviewed, all failing to meet the requirements. The names were kept confidential, except for a mention of the Leopold Museum’s director Hans-Peter Wipplinger, who was both a candidate and a member of the selection committee.
Schröder will be 64 at the start of his new contract. A charismatic speaker and seasoned business man, he is a polarizing figure among the directors of Vienna’s federal museums, which also include the Kunsthistorisches, Belvedere, MAK, MUMOK, and the Austrian National Library, each with a special purpose defined within the Museumsordnung. Critics claim Schröder expands his program with blockbuster shows that often stray far from the Albertina’s core mission in graphic art. He has done this, in part, through a practice of temporary long-term loans from private collectors that have been harshly criticized as costly for the tax-payers – earning Schröder the nickname “Mr. long-term loan”.
Schröder has also been accused of knowingly displaying forged paintings by Russian avant-garde artists as part of the Batliner Collection. In a recent interview with Die Presse, Schröder was unfazed: “The criticism is so extremely wrong, that I’m speechless.”
Still, Schröder’s shoes would have been hard to fill. Since its 2003 renovations, he expanded the museum from a 120 square meter graphic exhibit room into a state-of-the-art museum with 5,700 square meter exhibition space and increased the turnover from €70,000 to €11 million. “The international reputation of Albertina speaks for itself,” says Culture Minister Blümel. “The museum’s success story is the result of extremely professional management and Schröder’s vision for the future.”