In a surprise move, Bart Drenth has stepped down as global managing director of the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). He had just been appointed to the position in December of last year.
Drenth’s departure, which was first reported by , comes less than six months after being appointed to the position in December of last year. Upon being hired, he became the fair’s fourth director in three years.
The timing of the move will raise eyebrows for another reason too. Last Friday, Artnet News “Wet Paint” columnist Annie Armstrong reported on Drenth’s history of using his personal Twitter account to express provocative opinions on Muslims, leftists, and “woke” culture, among other sensitive topics.
“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,” Drenth, who is based in Amsterdam, wrote last August.
“Woke is the new Westboro: Hyper-Calvinistic hagglers,” read one post. “Really, your L+ rights are best protected if you are waving around Palestinian flags on the pride parade,” went another.
“My Twitter feed expresses my personal opinions and I separate this from my work at TEFAF,” the former director said when asked by Armstrong about these and other controversial posts. “So I will not comment on that.” (Drenth has since made his account private.)
A TEFAF press release announcing Drenth’s departure said the outgoing director plans to focus on his consultancy firm, Bart Drenth Advies. It did not mention Armstrong’s “Wet Paint” column or Drenth’s tweets.
“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,” said Hidde van Seggelen, president of the TEFAF executive committee, in a statement. “The board wishes Bart all the best in his future endeavors and thanks him for his service to TEFAF.”
Drenth served as TEFAF’s director in an interim capacity for 10 months before being officially hired into the position. Prior to that, he held leadership roles at a variety of Dutch cultural organizations, including the artists rights organization Pictoright and the Museum Volkenkunde.
The TEFAF press release noted that the organization’s board will “announce its leadership plan for the foundation and two international art fairs in the coming weeks.”