A highly respected but determinedly low-profile German museum director in charge of the Dresden state art collections is to succeed Neil MacGregor as director of the British Museum.
The surprise appointment of Hartwig Fischer, 53, has yet to be rubberstamped by Downing Street but sources at the British Museum suggested that would be little more than a formality. It means there should be a smooth transition between MacGregor’s official departure just before Christmas and Fischer’s appointment.
Because the news is still unofficial, museum directors in the UK who know Fischer were reluctant to comment. That included Martin Roth, the director of the V&A, who was Fischer’s predecessor at Dresden.
The Dresden state art collections, spread across 14 museums in the Saxony city, date to the 16th century and are considered among the most important art collections in the world. They receive about 2.5 million visitors a year.
Fischer joins Roth at the V&A and Christoph Vogtherr at the Wallace Collection as Germans in charge of major UK cultural organisations. MacGregor, meanwhile, is heading the other way as chairman of the planned €600m Humboldt Forum on the site of the former East German parliament in Berlin.
Fischer will become only the 20th head of the British Museum since it was founded in 1756. He will be the first German but not the first foreign-born: Dutchman Matthew Maty was principal librarian between 1772-76 while Joseph Planta (1799-1827) was born in Switzerland and Antonio Panizzi (1856-66) was born and educated in Italy, moving to England in his 20s.
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