Chris Dercon

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Chris Dercon
Born1958 Edit this on Wikidata
OccupationArt historian, art critic, university teacher, curator Edit this on Wikidata
Position heldmuseum director Edit this on Wikidata
Ordre des Arts et des Lettres

Chris Dercon (born 1958 at Lier, Belgium), is a Belgian art historian, curator, and museum director.

Dercon has worked and published extensively on the future of museums, working with renowned architects Rem Koolhaas, Robbrecht en Daem, Herzog and De Meuron, Gunther Vogt and Francis Kéré.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Dercon studied History of Art at the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden then Theatre Research and Film Theory at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.[3]


Dercon began his career as a teaching assistant at Rijksuniversiteit Leiden in the Department of Theatre Research where he initiated the Theatre Tape Festival. In 1980 he worked as an assistant curator at the Gemeentemuseum The Hague on a project about the history of world exhibitions and textiles. Starting in 1981 till 1983 he was a collaborator at the Galerie Baronian-Lambert in Ghent.[4] As of 1982, he worked as a free-lance art critic for the De Standaard newspaper as well as contributing to Belgian Radio and Television (RTBF) in Brussels.[5] From 1983 onwards, he also began teaching video and cinema at the KU Leuven, and at the Hoger Instituut voor Beeldende Kunsten, St Lukas, Brussels.[6] In 1988 he was appointed program director at PS1 in New York where he worked until 1990.[7][8]

Dercon was then appointed to his first directorship at Witte de With in Rotterdam, where he worked until 1995.[9][8] In 1995, he curated the exhibition at the Dutch pavilion during the that year's Venice Biennale, featuring Marlene Dumas, Maria Roosen and Marijke van Warmerdam. From 1996 to 2003 he served as director of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.[8]

Haus der Kunst, 2003–2011[edit]

From 2003 to 2011 Dercon served as the director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich.[10] In his first year, he notably invited Ydessa Hendeles to co-curate Partners, combining work by Diane Arbus, Maurizio Cattelan, James Coleman, Hanne Darboven, Walker Evans, Luciano Fabro, On Kawara, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman, Giulio Paolini, Jeff Wall and Lawrence Weiner[11] with Hendeles's own artwork Partners (The Teddy Bear Project) (2002), a large-scale installation built around an archive of family-album photographs, each including the image of a teddy bear.[12]

Tate Modern, 2011–2016[edit]

Dercon was appointed director of the Tate Modern in London in 2011 where he stayed until 2016.[3][13] In his position as Tate Modern director, he succeeded Vicente Todolí[8] ranking second to Sir Nicholas Serota.[14] During his tenure, he oversaw the opening of the museum's first dedicated space to live art and installations as part of plans to explore new areas of visual culture like video, photography and performance art.[15]

Whilst at Tate Modern, Dercon sat on the committee which chose Ferran Barenblit to be the new Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) in 2015.[16]

Volksbühne, 2017–2018[edit]

Nominated by Berlin's State Secretary for Cultural Affairs Tim Renner in 2015, Dercon was appointed general director of the Volksbühne Berlin from 2017[17] until 2018, succeeding Frank Castorf.[18][19] His first season began with a wide variety of productions including a 10-hour dance event in which the audience were asked to join in, and an installation by filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul.[19] But the first major world premiere of Dercon's tenure, a new play by Albert Serra, who had not previously worked in the theater, was panned by critics.[19] He experienced the fierce opposition of part of the Berlin scene, that considered that Dercon's appointment was a betrayal of the theater’s roots. Only six months after arriving, he quit the position. Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s senator for culture, said in a statement that Dercon failed in his vision for the Volksbühne.[20]

Grand Palais, 2019–2022[edit]

From 2019 Dercon was the President of the Association of French National Museums-Grand Palais for an initial five-year term, where he oversaw the renovation of the Grand Palais,[21][22] working with François Chatillon.[23]

Dercon served on the jury which selected Kapwani Kiwanga as winner of the Marcel Duchamp Prize in 2020.[24] In 2021, he was a member of the search committee that recommended Elvira Dyangani Ose to be the next director of MACBA.[25]

Fondation Cartier, 2022–present[edit]

In 2022, Dercon was appointed director of the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain.[26]

Other activities[edit]

Dercon currently serves as a board member for Wiels in Brussels, the Fondation d’Entreprise Galeries Lafayette in Paris, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany, the Visual Arts and Museums Commissions of the Ministry of Culture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.[27][28][29] He is also a member of the International Council of the Museum Berggruen.[30] In 2021, he was part of the selection committee that chose Elvira Dyangani Ose as first woman and the first black person to lead MACBA, where he is also part of the acquisition committee.[31]

Dercon has been a member of film festival juries at Brussels, Rotterdam, Locarno and Sarajevo (2014).[32]

Personal life[edit]

Dercon married art dealer Sonja Junkers in 2011.[33] Since 2018, he has been in a relationship with actress Birte Carolin von Knoblauch.[34]


  2. ^ "Francis Kéré and Chris Dercon join forces in Berlin".
  3. ^ a b New Director of Tate Modern Announced Tate, press release of June 15, 2010.
  4. ^ Verkoop kunst uit musea moet aan banden de Volkskrant, April 13, 1999.
  5. ^ Johan-Frédérik Hel Guedj (November 7, 2018), Le Belge Chris Dercon, du théâtre du peuple au Grand Palais L'Echo.
  6. ^ {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  7. ^ Valérie Duponchelle and Claire Bommelaer (July 18, 2019), Chris Dercon: «Inventons des expos pour le public de demain» Le Figaro.
  8. ^ a b c d Martin Bailey (May 31, 2010), Chris Dercon as Tate Modern's new director The Art Newspaper.
  9. ^ "Chris Dercon - Participants - FKA Witte de With".
  10. ^ "Andrea Lissoni, nouveau directeur artistique de la Haus der Kunst". 4 November 2019.
  11. ^ "Partners". Haus der Kunst. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  12. ^ Hendeles, Ydessa (2003). Partners. Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König. ISBN 3-88375-755-1.
  13. ^ Kati Krause (March 18, 2011), Tate Modern Finds Its Match Wall Street Journal.
  14. ^ James Pickford (April 24, 2015), Tate Modern director follows Tate Britain director out of door Financial Times.
  15. ^ Li-mei Hoang (July 16, 2012), London gallery opens space dedicated to live art Reuters.
  16. ^ Alex Greenberger (24 July 2015), Ferran Barenblit Named Director of MACBA ARTnews.
  17. ^ Mark Brown (April 24, 2015), Tate Modern boss to leave for leading role at Berlin's Volksbühne theatre The Guardian.
  18. ^ Johanna Luyssen (April 13, 2018), «Tschüss»: A Berlin, le controversé directeur de la Volksbühne, Chris Dercon, démissionne déjà Libération.
  19. ^ a b c Melissa Eddy (April 13, 2018), Protest-Hit Director Quits Berlin Theater New York Times.
  20. ^ Eddy, Melissa (2018-04-13). "Protest-Hit Director Quits Berlin Theater". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2022-05-05.
  21. ^ "Qui sommes-nous ?".
  22. ^ Alex Marshall (November 8, 2018), After Strife in Berlin, Chris Dercon Is to Run the Grand Palais in Paris New York Times.
  23. ^ "Comment le directeur du Grand Palais invente le musée du futur". 6 November 2020.
  24. ^ Alex Greenberger (19 October 2020), Kapwani Kiwanga, Artist Who Centers African Histories, Wins France’s Top Art Prize ARTnews.
  25. ^ Maximilíano Durón (16 July 2021), Barcelona’s MACBA Names Elvira Dyangani Ose as Next Director ARTnews.
  26. ^ Alex Greenberger (6 October 2022), Grand Palais’s Director Departs for Fondation Cartier Ahead of First Art Basel Fair in Paris ARTnews.
  27. ^ "Seeks new director".
  28. ^ "Chris Dercon". Lafayette Anticipations.
  29. ^ "Saudi Visual Arts Authority gets board of directors". 29 July 2020.
  30. ^ International Council Museum Berggruen.
  31. ^ Maximilíano Durón (July 16, 2021), Barcelona’s MACBA Names Elvira Dyangani Ose as Next Director ARTnews.
  32. ^ 2014 Jury: Chris Dercon Sarajevo Film Festival.
  33. ^ Volker Isfort (March 28, 2011), Hochzeit und ein lautes Servus Abendzeitung.
  34. ^ Martine Robert (February 12, 2019), Le Belge Chris Dercon à la tête de la RMN Grand-Palais Les Echos.