Can one blame politicians for being populist? The answer is yes. In 2001, Frankfurt’s then mayor Petra Roth, met a fundraising assistant at the Guggenheim in NY and brought him to Frankfurt. She first gave him the Schirn exhibition hall to manage, then made him Director General of Frankfurt’s most important art museums, the Städel and the Liebieghaus.
Hollein is a marketing man and ran his museums accordingly. Big, crowd-pleasing exhibitions and constant publicity. Not least, self-publicity. Now that he is leaving, Frankfurt should seriously consider going back to the academic model of art museums. Museums should, after all, be more than exhibition halls with fanfare.
This will not be an easy decision, as publicity is a drug and Frankfurt got used to it. The mayor who will decide to opt for an academic, an art historian, rather than a marketing man, will have to bear the accusation that “nobody mentions the Städel anymore”.