London V&A Names Dresden Museums’ Martin Roth as Director

Martin Roth
Martin Roth, the new director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Roth is director general of the Dresden State Art Collections and takes up his new job in Sept. 2011. Source: Ginevra Fiorentini Media Relations via Bloomberg

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum today named Martin Roth as director starting Sept. 1, choosing a culture manager with 10 years’ experience of running Dresden’s extensive art collections and organizing international shows.

Roth, who is 56, takes over from Mark Jones, who has led the V&A since 2001 and is leaving to be master of St. Cross College at Oxford University. Roth is currently director general of Dresden’s State Art Collections, among the oldest and most important collections in the world.

The V&A describes itself as the “world’s greatest museum of art and design,” with a collection spanning 3,000 years. It encompasses architecture, ceramics, glass, fashion, jewelry, metalwork, painting, photography and more. The museum last month chose architect Amanda Levete to lead a 35 million pound ($58 million) redevelopment that will create new exhibition rooms, a public courtyard, and a new side entrance.

Roth has “a strong record of leading and managing complex arts organizations,” Paul Ruddock, chairman of the V&A board of trustees, said in an e-mailed statement. “He is the ideal person to build on the recent successes of the V&A.”

As Dresden’s museum chief, Roth has overseen the reopening of the World War II-bombed Historic Green Vault treasure chamber, the rebuilding of the ruined royal palace (due for completion in 2013) and the renovation after flood damage of the 16th-century Albertinum.

Old Masters

The Dresden art collections were assembled by the electors of Saxony including August the Strong, a passionate collector of art and treasures. The 15 separate collections, housed in seven museum buildings, include old masters, jewels, porcelain, weaponry, modern art, sculpture, graphics and folk art.

Roth has also overseen the settlement of restitution claims including a 4.2 million-euro ($6.1 million) payout to the heirs of the royal family for porcelain expropriated by the East German communist regime after World War II.

He was the initiator of Beijing exhibition called “The Art of the Enlightenment,” a collaboration by the Dresden, Munich and Berlin art collections, which is showing for a year at the newly built National Museum of China.

China Arrest

German artists, journalists and curators called for the exhibition's closure after the arrest in China of the artist Ai Weiwei on April 3. In an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on April 12, Roth and his Dresden and Munich colleagues defended the exhibition, saying the calls “made no sense.”

“How can we get to know and understand the culture and values of a country and its population if we refuse to cooperate with it?” they asked. “Cultural projects do not just transcend borders, they transcend systems too.”

The Green Vault will present a selection of its treasures at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, in October.

Before taking the post as director of Dresden’s museums, Roth was curator at the German Historical Museum in Berlin and director of the Hygiene Museum in Dresden.

The V&A is comprised of the main museum at South Kensington, the V&A Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green, and the archives and stores at Blythe House, Kensington Olympia.

It is also creating a V&A museum on the Dundee waterfront.

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