Achim Borchardt-Hume, the director of exhibitions at Tate Modern who had just opened a major Anicka Yi show at the London museum last month, has died. The Tate museum network announced his death on Friday on social media, calling him an “inspirational figure.” A cause of death and an age for Borchardt-Hume were not provided, although he would have been in his mid-50s.
“Achim leaves behind an extraordinary legacy, not just at Tate Modern, but across the international art world,” Tate wrote in a statement.
Borchardt-Hume had been director of exhibitions at Tate Modern since 2012, and had recently organized Yi’s Turbine Hall Commission, a series of floating sculptures with scents within that the artist termed “aerobes.” He also curated Tate Modern’s current Auguste Rodin exhibition, which focuses on the artist’s use of plaster. Both exhibitions have been praised by critics.
Born in 1965 in Düren, Germany, Borchardt-Hume received his Ph.D. from Essex University, where he focused on art in Fascist Italy. Based in London since the ’90s, he became a curator of modern and contemporary art at Tate Modern in 2005, and later organized the museum’s hugely popular Mark Rothko survey in 2008.
In 2009, he left Tate Modern for London’s Whitechapel Gallery, where he served as chief curator until returning to Tate Modern in 2012. At Whitechapel, he said he was placing a renewed emphasis on the institution’s role with respect to its surrounding community. “I hope that we are continuously aware of a local audience, and I would hope particularly that if we manage to reach younger people, that they will become loyal audiences,” he told the Art Newspaper.
At Tate Modern, he also led the museum’s Black, Asian, and minority ethnic network. Among the shows he curated were Anni Albers, Alexander Calder, Kazimir Malevich, Robert Rauschenberg, and Doris Salcedo.
“I think it’s important that exhibitions give you a clear sense of positions, of ideas, of stories,” Borchardt-Hume once said. “One of the interesting things is how can you actually make an exhibition where you feel you come close to the artist as a human being.”