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Germany

Muschg Steps Down as Head of German Academy of Arts

The resignation of Adolf Muschg as the president of the Academy of Arts in Berlin has come as a surprise to many but not all.

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Muschg says the resignation is because of "irreconcilable differences"

It would have been simpler to attribute the spectacular resignation of Adolf Muschg as a move which would allow the well-known Swiss author to be able to re-dedicate himself to his true calling.

But there is little chance of that. Instead, he announced his departure on Thursday as the president of the Academy of Arts in Berlin as a result of "irreconcilable differences" with the senate of the academy. His term was to have ended in May 2006.

While many observers were not completely surprised by the resignation, some colleagues and others were taken aback by the time -- before the next meeting of the academy senate to take place in spring 2006, in which a new election for president will take place.

Reproaching the senate

The 71-year-old Muschg, the second non-German president after Hungarian György Konrad, at the top of the more than three centuries' old artists' society, found harsh words for the senate. He said he didn't think the inert institution had the ability to reform the academy and that in his almost three years as president, mutual trust had been eroded.

Schriftsteller und Literaturnobelpreisträger Günter Grass

Günter Grass also tried to reform the academy

He described the senate as "confused, marked by dilettantism and arbitrary." An institution with more than 150 employees, multiple properties and a budge of 18 million euros ($22 million) should not be managed in a such a way, he added.

He saved some of the harshest words for the move into a new building on Pariser Platz, just down the road from the Reichstag in central Berlin, in May, saying that it didn't serve to strengthen the presence of the institution or its influence in the public realm or in the political one.

Regret resignation

The academy dates back 300 years and is still one of Europe's leading cultural institutions. As a result, reforms are slow, said Muschg. Other past reform-minded members of the academy, such as Günther Grass, had little luck in reforming the academy's curriculum or business culture.

Academy officials called Muschg's resignation "regrettable" and praised his "extraordinary service."

And Muschg said he was sad and sorry to leave the academy in the lurch.

"But when someone doesn't have anything to work with and can't be effective anymore, one must go," he said.

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