Hartwig Fischer Named Director of Planned World Cultures Museum in Saudi Arabia - The World News

Hartwig Fischer Named Director of Planned World Cultures Museum in Saudi Arabia

Former British Museum director Hartwig Fischer has been appointed the founding director of a world culture museum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia set to open in 2026.

The new, 360-foot-high museum is currently under construction and will be located in the Royal Arts Complex in King Salman Park. The building’s design is by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill.

The Saudi Museums Commission announced the appointment of Fischer in a press release on July 11, calling the flagship museum “a pivotal moment in Saudi Arabia’s cultural renaissance” and part of the commission’s commitment to establishing state-of-the art institutions.

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Fischer’s appointment and the new museum are part of several initiatives aimed at expanding its arts and culture sector while shifting the country’s reliance on oil. In addition to the $10 billion King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) development in central Riyadh, Saudi cultural initiatives include the city-wide art festival Noor Riyadh and the Diriyah Biennale, the most recent of which opened in February. The city has also been chosen for World Expo 2030 and the FIFA World Cup in 2034.

Fischer stepped down as director of the British Museum last August after the institution announced that more than 1,500 items from its collections were lost, stolen, or damaged. Fischer was initially expected to depart earlier this year. However, whistleblower Ittai Gradel said that he had alerted Fischer and other senior museum officials about the thefts in 2021. While Fischer initially claimed that he took Gradel’s allegations “seriously”, he later withdrew them and said he held responsibility as director for the British Museum failing to “respond as comprehensively as it should have”.

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