AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS.-It was announced that John Leighton, director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam is to leave the Netherlands to become the new Director-General of the National Galleries of Scotland in Edinburgh. Leighton will succeed Sir Timothy Clifford, Director-General since 1984.
The National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) comprises five galleries in Edinburgh and two partner galleries in the north and south of Scotland, whose collections of fine art are generally ranked amongst the finest in Europe. The five Edinburgh galleries are the National Gallery of Scotland, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the Dean Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy.
The flagship of NGS is the National Gallery in Edinburgh whose collections range from the early Renaissance to the end of the 19th century, with major masterpieces by various artists including Raphael, Titian, Vermeer, Watteau, Constable and a superb holding of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. It also houses the national collections of Scottish art. The NGS administers the adjacent Royal Scottish Academy building that was reopened in 2003 after a major refurbishment as a venue for international exhibitions. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Dean Gallery house the most important holdings of modern and contemporary art in the UK outside London.
John Leighton (1959) has been Director of the Van Gogh Museum and Museum Mesdag (The Hague) since 1997. Under Leighton's Directorship, the Museum has consolidated its reputation as one of the liveliest museums in Europe. Since the opening of the Museum's new wing and a major renovation of the Rietveld building in 1999, attendance figures have almost doubled in comparison to the 1990s and with on average more than 1.3 million visitors each year the Van Gogh Museum is the busiest museum in the Netherlands.
During Leighton's tenure as Director, the museum carried forward the artistic programmes first established by his predecessor, Ronald de Leeuw (now Director of the Rijksmuseum). Ambitious goals were set for expanding the permanent collection, developing world-class exhibition and research programmes and for creating an innovative approach to education and outreach. Major works acquired for the collection include Monet's Mills at Westzijderveld near Zaandam, Manet's The Jetty of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Caillebotte's View from a Balcony. The Museum now enjoys an international reputation for its temporary exhibitions. The exhibition Van Gogh & Gauguin (2002) was the best attended art exhibition anywhere in the world in that year. The Museum Mesdag has also been enlivened with a new programme of exhibitions and displays.
While the Van Gogh Museum regularly works with international partners and is well known for attracting foreign tourist visitors, Leighton placed a special emphasis on encouraging local and national visitors to "rediscover" their museum. A long-term partnership with the Rabobank was specifically designed to help promote Dutch visits and recent initiatives include late opening on a Friday and the Van Gogh Museumbus which collects schoolchildren from all over the country and brings them to Amsterdam for a tour and a session in the studio.
John Leighton will take up his new position in March 2006. The Van Gogh Museum expects to commence shortly with a national and international search for a successor.
Mr Ewald Kist, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Van Gogh Museum commented: "We congratulate John Leighton with this well-deserved step forward in his career. We are all extremely grateful for his unrelenting commitment over the past eight and a half years and his success in strengthening the national and international reputation of the Van Gogh Museum."