Udo Kittelmann, the closely watched curator who has helmed the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin for 12 years, will vacate the position when his contract expires in October 2020. In the role, Kittelmann heads a sprawling portfolio of state art museums, including the Alte Nationalgalerie, Neue Nationalgalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berggruen Museum, Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg, and Friedrichswerdersche Kirche.
Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, said in a statement that Kittelmann has made the Nationalgalerie “a global player both nationally and internationally.” Joachim Jäger will serve as interim director of the state museums until a permanent head is appointed. Kittelmann has not discussed his future plans.
In a news release, Michael Eissenhauer, the general director of the state museums of Berlin, said that Kittelmann’s vision for museums “always puts people at the center” and, in his work, “he continues to stimulate the international art and museum discourse.”
Kittelmann managed the Neue Nationalgalerie’s €101 million (about $112 million) renovation, which began in 2015 and is due to be completed next year. It is not uncommon for directors to step down after completing a landmark capital project.
The museum chief has also maintained an active curatorial practice, putting on shows that have spotlighted Gerhard Richter, Otto Piene, and Hilma af Klint at the Hamburger Bahnhof. He was also behind an Andreas Gursky exhibition at the Museum Frieder Burda, and an Impressionism and Expressionism exhibition at the Alte Nationalgalerie. According to The Art Newspaper, the Hamburger Bahnhof’s current exhibition on Emil Nolde’s work during the Nazi regime has already drawn a formidable 120,000 visitors.
Before taking up his current role, Kittelmann worked as director of the Kunstverein in Cologne, curator of the German Pavilion at the 2001 Venice Biennale, and director of the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main. His planned departure opens one of the most prestigious and far-reaching museum director jobs in the world.