Prof. Martin Roth, President of the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa), died in Berlin on 6 August 2017 after a battle with serious illness, aged 62.
Martin Roth was one of the most prominent and successful cultural managers, museum directors and curators of our age. Born in Stuttgart in 1955, he studied Empirical Cultural Studies at the University of Tübingen. His doctoral dissertation on the political and historical context of museums and exhibitions in Germany between 1871 and 1945 laid the foundations for an unparalleled career. He began his international career as Director of the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden, then took up positions as Director General of the Dresden State Art Collections and Chairman of the German Museums Association. Martin Roth curated Expo 2000 in Hanover and was the first German to be appointed Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which was named Museum of the Year in 2016. Visitor numbers reached record heights under his tenure, with exhibitions on David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Alexander McQueen.
Martin Roth was appointed to the honorary position of President of the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen on 1 July 2017. Sadly, his time at ifa was all too short, but he has left an indelible mark. In the run-up to his presidency he was involved in numerous discussions that opened up new perspectives and highlighted issues that will be important for ifa's future. He was driven by his belief that the arts and culture have to engage in politics; that creativity is a driving force that shapes our society; and that culture plays a major role in creating people's identity. He was a great advocate of the active role of the arts in society and politics. He was an outspoken critic of the cultural scene's lack of engagement with current threats, such as the break-up of Europe or the Pegida movement in Dresden. Martin Roth believed in speaking his mind, and for him, provocation and polarisation were tools for uncovering the truth. Whether it was Germany's law on the protection of cultural property, the Humboldt Forum or Brexit – he held strong opinions and expected the arts to assume responsibility and engage with political developments.
Everyone who knew Martin Roth admired the energy that, right to the end, he brought to his vision for the future and how he always questioned the people behind the things. This was how he approached his work and his staff, turning every institution that he led into a centre for innovation and experimentation. He created vibrant spaces for people who were keen to engage with the big issues of the time. His museums were renowned for their sound academic basis and top curatorial quality, but they also became places for encounter. He attracted record numbers of visitors to his establishments. Martin Roth was a magnet for enlightenment, education and shaping opinion through art and design. In our thoughts and actions, we draw on his courage, cogency and wealth of ideas.
We are deeply saddened by Martin Roth's passing, and it now falls to all of us to continue his life's work.
We extend our sincerest condolences also on behalf of the ifa staff to his wife, children and family.
Dr Bernt Graf zu Dohna, Vice President
Ronald Grätz, Secretary General
Please send messages of condolence to:
Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen
Prof. Dr. Martin Roth
has been the President of the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen from 1 July to 6 August 2017.
Prof. Dr Martin Roth was Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London 2011–2016. Under his leadership the Museum has received a record number of 3.8 million visitors and reopened the Europe 1600–1815 galleries in 2015, and the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries in 2016. The V&A was recognized as Museum of the Year in 2016 and his exhibition, 'Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty' won the Museums and Heritage award for Best Temporary Exhibition of 2015.
Before joining the V&A, Martin Roth was Director General of the Dresden State Art Collections (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden), overseeing 12 museums and galleries. From 1996 to 2001 Martin Roth was a member of the senior management of the Expo 2000 in Hanover and Director of Thematic Exhibitions. He was President of the German Museums Association from 1995 to 2003, and a member of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Advisory Board in Berlin until his relocation to London in 2011. From 1991 to 2000 he was Director of the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden, the first German science museum, and prior to that he was Curator at the Deutsche Historische Museum (1989-2001).
Martin Roth was a Special Advisor to the German Foreign Ministry for Cultural Matters, Trustee of the Goethe Institute, the Foundation of arts and music for Dresden (Stiftung Kunst und Musik für Dresden), Germany, Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Agenda 2020 Culture Panel, Non-Executive Director of Expo 2020 Dubai, Member of the Advisory Board of the Kunstsammlung Würth, Member of the Board of the Foundation of arts and music for Dresden (Stiftung Kunst und Musik für Dresden) and Senior Associate at the AEA Consulting.
After completing his PhD on the History of Museums and Cultural Politics in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich at the Eberhard Karls University in Tuebingen in 1987, Martin Roth became a researcher at the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme, E.H.E.S.S. in Paris. Following this, in 1992, he became a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.
Martin Roth has lectured at the University of Dresden, the School of Design in Karlsruhe, and the University of Karlsruhe. He was Honorary Fellow of Arts University Bournemouth and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies University Centre, University of British Columbia and Honorary Senator of University of Tübingen.