V & A GAINS THREE GRACES AND LOSES A DIRECTOR

Elizabeth Esteve-Coll, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, will announce today that she is to step down from one of the most coveted posts in the arts world.

Her announcement comes the day after The Three Graces, the most expensive sculpture ever bought by the nation, went on display at the V&A yesterday after a public appeal to raise the £7.6m needed to prevent it going to the US.

Ms Esteve-Coll is said to have been offered the vice-chancellorship of East Anglia University.

Her time as director of the V & A has been a stormy one. She restructured the senior staffing, changing the traditional duties of curators, sanctioned more popular culture exhibitions, provoked resignations and was accused of taking the prestigious museum downmarket when she approved a Saatchi advertising campaign headed "An ace cafe with quite a nice museum attached." At one stage museum worthies on both sides of the Atlantic besieged newspapers with letters denouncing her.

But she battled through and can now claim to have widened the museum constitutency, attracting more young people. She has also reorganised storage and conservation procedures.

She is held in esteem in the museum world. But one insider said last night she had never forgotten the vicious nature of the campaign against her and some of the language used.

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