“I am profoundly saddened by Martin Roth’s premature death. Martin Roth was one of the best and most influential museum directors in the world, an outspoken intellectual and an innovative advocate for culture. His commitment to fostering cultural collaboration, as well as understanding across linguistic, political and cultural divides, was second to none. But more than anything, in all areas of his work he focused on a topic that gave us a great sense of connection with one another, that is, on giving people, particularly young people and people from different backgrounds, access to culture and cultural education.
I thus greatly valued his guidance as President of the ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), but beyond this role also as my Special Representative for Cultural Relations and Education Policy and as a friend.
Over the course of his successful career, Martin Roth set new benchmarks for museum work. As Director of the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden, in his work for EXPO 2000 in Hanover and his ten years as Director General of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections), he took an innovative approach and pursued a clear vision of museums as venues for thought-provoking debate. He was Director of the V&A in London from 2011 to 2016, and the first non‑British person to hold this post. His pioneering exhibitions made the world’s largest museum for art and design a huge draw for visitors and raised its international profile. In 2016, Martin Roth was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his services to cultural cooperation between Germany and the United Kingdom.
We will always remember Martin Roth as someone who tirelessly advocated culture’s political responsibility. He believed that art should be political, get involved and take a stance. Time and again, he demonstrated the courage to engage in political debate, not only in the exhibition, The Art of the Enlightenment, in Beijing in 2011‑2012, which he co‑organised as Director of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections) with the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the Bavarian State Painting Collections, but also in his new role as President of the ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), which he took up on 1 July 2017 and planned to use to promote an open society and intercultural exchange in terms of truly global cultural work.
Today we have lost a cultural visionary and a true advocate for tolerance and open‑mindedness. We shall miss him. We share in the grief of his widow and family.”