Remembering Martin Roth

  • 7 August 2017

We are deeply saddened to learn that Martin Roth, former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, has died.

Martin Roth Photo: Richard Young

Martin Roth

Joining the V&A in 2011 from his position as director of Dresden State Art Collections, Roth oversaw a period of intense development at the London institution – and it was under his directorship that the museum was awarded Art Fund Museum of the Year 2016.

During Roth’s five-year tenure, the V&A opened its European Galleries 1600-1815 and presented the internationally acclaimed David Bowie Is and Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibitions – the latter breaking the V&A’s records for audience figures, with nearly half a million visitors from 87 countries attending. Roth was also closely involved in the expansion of the museum to Dundee and Shekou, China, and the development of the new Exhibition Road Quarter. 

‘Martin Roth exuded a sense of confidence, power and affability, a potent combination with which he made a major impression on the UK museum world when he arrived to take over the directorship of the V&A from Mark Jones,’ said Art Fund director Stephen Deuchar. ‘With his predecessor having successfully shouldered the burden of painstakingly reforming and revitalising the museum across the previous decade, Roth’s exuberance and international panache made him the perfect choice to complete and hone the V&A’s restored reputation as one of the world’s finest and most important museums.’

Roth stepped down from the directorship in September 2016, with many speculating that his widely reported disappointment in the outcome of the European Referendum may have influenced the timing – though Roth stated that winning Museum of the Year ‘feels like the perfect moment to draw to a close my mission in London and hand over to a new director,’ and later told the Telegraph: ‘I want to make space for younger talents.’

On leaving the V&A Roth planned to spend time with his wife Harriet and their children in Berlin and Vancouver, and to devote more time to international cultural consultancy. This year he co-curated the Azerbaijan Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale with Emin Mammadov. 

A statement from the V&A reads: ‘Martin will be remembered as a man of prodigious energy; a Director with a global reputation both within the museum world and beyond; a committed Europhile and cultural ambassador with a philosophical turn of mind, as well as a devoted husband and father.’