Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The New Met Director

At almost exactly 5:00 PM, The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced the name of their new director: Thomas P. Campbell, a British-born and Oxford- and Courtauld-educated curator at the museum who specializes in tapestries (his recent show on Baroque tapestries was quite spectacular). The current director, Philippe de Montebello, retires at the end of the year after one of the longest tenures (30 years!) in the museum's 138-year history.

For those unfamiliar with the visual art world, this is a big deal. To become director of a museum like the Met is about the equivalent of becoming the monarch of a small kingdom. A museum director's role takes on many guises, from ensuring the scholarly quality of exhibitions to generating donations for the institution. It combines the roles of art historian, business executive, and fundraising coordinator in one. In other words, being a museum director is a prestigious position, but is challenging work. To have that position at one of the--if not THE--most important museum in the country is truly an accomplishment. The Met often sets the standard for how American and international museums showcase their universal art collections, and the museum stands proudly beside the Louvre, the Vatican, and both National Galleries, among other illustrious institutions, for its collections and exhibitions.

Campbell was rumored to be the underdog for the position. The other candidates were two other curators and Max Hollein, a director of not one but three art museums in Frankfurt, Germany. CultureGrrl was convinced it was going to be Hollein, but I guess her "Deep Throat" mole turned out to be wrong. CultureGrrl has her thoughts on the appointment of Campbell and the Met's ongoing "work in progress." The New York Times has something to say as well. If you want to go to the official source, here's the Met's official press release.

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