German historian to lead British museum

  • 30/09/2015
Director of the State Art Collections Dresden (SKD), Art historian Harwig Fischer (AAP)
Director of the State Art Collections Dresden (SKD), Art historian Harwig Fischer (AAP)

A German art historian has been named the next director of the British Museum, becoming the first foreigner to head the prestigious London institution in 150 years.

Hartwig Fischer, 53, who is currently director general of the Dresden State Art Collections in eastern Germany, will take up the post in the first half of 2016.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed the appointment ahead of incumbent Neil MacGregor's retirement in December, the museum said on Tuesday.

MacGregor, who has been in charge since 2002, is to work on part-time projects, including a major new cultural project in Berlin.

Fischer will become the 20th head of the British Museum since it was founded in 1756 and the first director originating from abroad since Italian-born Antonio Panizzi, who held the post between 1856 and 1866.

The museum is Britain's most visited attraction, welcoming almost 6.7 million people in 2014.

Fischer admitted being "daunted" by the prospect of heading such a highly regarded cultural draw.

"I never dreamt that I would be invited to be responsible for this great British institution and I am conscious that nobody could fail to grasp what the British Museum represents not only for the UK but for the whole world," he said, adding: "It's an honour."

The British Museum's chairman of trustees, Richard Lambert, hailed Fischer as "one of the outstanding museum directors in the world".

"He is not only a great scholar, but an experienced administrator and a gifted linguist with a global reputation for rethinking and representing great collections."