Bart Drenth resigns as Tefaf’s global managing director following reports of “anti-woke” tweets

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Bart Drenth has resigned as global managing director at Tefaf less than six months after taking on the role at the Dutch company, which owns and runs Tefaf Maastricht and Tefaf New York art fairs, in December.

Drenth previously served as the company’s interim director from February until December 2022, after Tefaf’s managing director Charlotte van Leerdam went on medical leave. (In December, Van Leerdam told The Art Newspaper that she intends to return to her role upon recovering).

In a statement issued last night, Tefaf said Drenth has stepped down to “focus on his longtime consulting advisory, Bart Drenth Advies”. It adds: “The board will announce its leadership plan for the foundation and two international art fairs in the coming weeks.”

Hidde van Seggelen, the president of the Tefaf executive committee, said in a statement: “The board is grateful to Bart for his accomplishments achieved as managing director of Tefaf. Bart joined Tefaf at a time of great upheaval and transition caused by the pandemic when the art market and fairs were just returning to business. Despite these challenges, Bart’s leadership, fiscal discipline, and efforts to align and structure the team led to stability and progress for Tefaf. This year, Tefaf held two successful editions in Maastricht and New York, indicating that the foundation and fairs are well-positioned going forward. The board wishes Bart all the best in his future endeavors and thanks him for his service to Tefaf.”

Drenth’s resignation comes days after Artnet posted an article which chronicled his “anti-woke” Tweets (his account @bardrenth has since been made private). Armstrong translated the Tweets, originally written in Dutch. One, posted in August 2022, reportedly read: “Just as with the Iranian revolution in 1978, left-wing do-gooders stand hand in hand with jihadists. Not knowing that after the success of the revolution they will die first.”

Other tweets, according to Artnet’s article, read: “Speculating about the transition of the population is only a problem when you are not a Muslim,” and: “Woke is the new Westboro: Hyper-Calvinistic hagglers.” Another said: “Really, your L+ rights are best protected if you are waving around Palestinian flags on the pride parade.” And, last month, Drenth reportedly wrote: “Normalise criticism of the Quran and the Prophet.”

Drenth told Artnet: “My Twitter feed expresses my personal opinions and I separate this from my work at Tefaf. So I will not comment on that.”

Only three weeks ago, Drenth was the subject of a major cover story profile in the Dutch financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad’s magazine, titled “Noem mij geen Mister Tefaf”, which translates as “Don’t call me Mr Tefaf”.

The article reads: “Last year, Bart Drenth joined Tefaf as interim director, four months before the opening, because his predecessor had fallen ill.”

The “predecessor” mentioned is Charlotte van Leerdam, Tefaf’s managing director. Unhappy with the reference to her illness, she commented in response to the article on Linkedin: “Imagine battling breast cancer in the Netherlands, where you are entitled to return to your position in the first 104 weeks after becoming ill, and seeing yourself being described as a predecessor in a front page article in the press. What an incorrect message: I’m still employed but unfortunately ill. What kind of vanity moves Bart? To date, I have not spoken publicly about my illness, as this is a private matter. It is inappropriate and in violation of privacy legislation for Bart to tell you this. Unfortunately, I receive so many comments based on this article that I feel compelled to say something about it.”

Van Leerdam continued: “After an intense year with a lot of chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants that failed, a serious infection, operations, a bone marrow puncture and radiotherapy, my scans and biopsies are clean! I am cancer free again, recovering quickly and I feel great!”.

Drenth tells The Art Newspaper: “I have nothing to add to Tefaf’s statement except that it was a pleasure and privilege working for Tefaf.”

Tefaf declined to make any further comment on the matter.

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