Martin Roth (1955-2017)

Image: Berlin Cathedral (Berliner Dom): (brick, neo-Renaissance cathedral), Museum Island in the district of Mitte.

From Wikipedia:

“Martin Roth was born on 16 January 1955 in Stuttgart, Germany. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of Tübingen in 1987: his doctoral dissertation concerned “the political and historical context of museums and exhibitions in Germany between 1871 and 1945″, which included the Weimar and Nazi years. He was the director general of the Dresden State Art Collections (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden) from 2001 to 2011 and the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK, from 2011 to 2016.

Roth died in Berlin on 6 August 2017 at the age of 62. He had been diagnosed as suffering from cancer immediately after his resignation from the V&A.”

In the Spring 2016 edition of V&A Magazine, Martin Roth wrote:

“The V&A is indebted to two Victorian visionaries: Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and civil servant Sir Henry Cole…

…In 1867 Queen Victoria laid the red Aberdeen granite foundation stone of the Royal Albert Hall. Six years later construction began on Alfred Waterhouse’s Romanesque façade for the Natural History Museum, which in 1881 began to welcome visitors curious to see its collections of exotic specimens from all over the British Empire. The 1880s also saw the establishment of the Royal College of Music (1882), and in 1887 the Imperial Institute was created to coincide with Queen Victoria’s jubilee – its library, laboratories, conference rooms and exhibition galleries opening six years later as part of the genesis of what is now Imperial College. The South Kensington Museum underwent further development in the period too, first in 1899 when Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of the museum’s now familiar edifice, and in 1909, when part of the museum’s collections were moved across Exhibition Road to the newly established Science Museum.

The influence of Albertopolis was not limited to South Kensington, or even London. In fact, Prince Albert and Henry Cole’s civic-minded vision provided a blueprint for others to follow. German architect Gottfried Semper was among those who drew inspiration from his contemporaries in his plans for Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches museums, which were built in the city’s Maria-Theresien-Platz between 1872 and 1891…

…While public art installations, such as Subodh Gupta’s When Soak Becomes Spill, have brought the V&A on to the street and enabled the museum to continue to deliver on Prince Albert and Cole’s ambition to make works of art available to everyone, Exhibition Road will be further revitalised over the coming years with new entrances for the V&A and Natural History Museum that harmonise the public spaces of institution and street…”

Henri Neuendorf wrote in art net news of August 29, 2017:

“The late museum director and art historian Martin Roth’s final book was published yesterday, August 28, just over three weeks after his death. Based on conversations with his three adult children, Widerrede (Talk Back) is part political manifesto, part personal reflection on the life and work of a lionized cultural leader.

Motivated by the rise of right-wing populism worldwide, the former Victoria & Albert Museum director writes that he felt compelled to use his platform to issue a call to action.

In the book, published in German by Edition Evangelisches Gemeindeblatt, Roth recalls a difficult childhood growing up in postwar Germany. The lessons he gleaned from researching his doctorate on cultural policy in the 1920s and 1930s, he writes, can now be applied to the fight against xenophobia and right-wing fear-mongering.

“An extremely right-wing Europe has risen in front of our eyes,” Roth warns in an excerpt published by Süddeutsche Zeitung…”

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