Els van Odijk, former director of the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, passed away on Wednesday 30 August.
Els joined the Rijksakademie in the 1980s with the task of forming the international policy. She was an ambitious pioneer, who helped to build the international scope of the institute and the development of alumni platforms in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. When the Rijksakademie became independent in 1999, she became a member of the board of directors. Besides globalisation and international cooperation, she also focused on strategic partnerships and the relationship between art, science and innovation.
In 2011, she became general director. Challenging, sharp, critical and determined, but also working with warmth and humour, she led the Rijksakademie. Soon she was faced with the major culture funding cuts. Els navigated the institute combatively and uncompromisingly through this difficult time. She had to implement a major reorganisation; she committed herself to a merger process; and she secured the future of the Rijksakademie with the purchase of the former cavalry barracks. ''We'll fix that too,'' was a statement that typified Els.
Els was a passionate advocate of the free space where artists are challenged to push their boundaries in work and thinking. She always believed in a welcoming home, where artists with diverse positions and from different backgrounds come together to enrich each other. In doing so, she made a strong contribution to the global performance of the Rijksakademie.
In August 2018, Els stepped down as director. Since then, she held various advisory and board positions in the Netherlands and abroad.
Els will always remain connected to the history and people of the Rijksakademie. We will miss her and wish her husband Maarten, her daughter Nike, her family and friends much strength and courage.