May 5, 2006

Who will replace the Metropolitan Museum’s director

Posted at 12:49 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Philippe de Montebello’s seemingly unrepentant attitude to the acquisition of looted antiquities, particularly since the agreement to return the Euphronios Krater, has highlighted the problems of the way in which many museum directors perceive restitution problems. The Art Newspaper speculates on who might succeed him when he retires. Neil MacGregor, current director of the British Museum is suggested as a possible contender.

The Art Newspaper

Who’s to replace de Montebello at the Met?
Posted 04 May 2006

NEW YORK. No one wants to see him retire, least of all the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But museum director Philippe de Montebello turns 70 this month, a milestone that inevitably raises questions about departure and succession. According to museum spokesman Harold Holzer, senior vice-president for external affairs, Mr de Montebello is unlikely to retire soon. “My belief is that he has no such plans, and no plans to make plans about his retirement,” says Mr Holzer. “The question does not exist at this institution.”

But were the unthinkable to occur, who would be likely to succeed him? The odds are that it would be the director of another museum, and, in these increasingly globalist times, not necessarily an American one. With that in mind, here is a snapshot look at possible contenders.

James Cuno
Director and president of the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) since 2004, Mr Cuno is a thoughtful advocate for collection-building and preservation as core museum missions. Before coming to Chicago, he spent 11 years as director of the Harvard University Art Museums followed by a brief tenure as director of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art. Mr Cuno edited the 2004 book, Whose Muse? Art Museums and the Public Trust. At the AIC, he has encouraged increased financial support and re-energised the campaign for the museum’s Renzo Piano-designed expansion. However, most of his career has been spent in university museums, and his time at a major museum is relatively brief.

Glenn Lowry
The reopening of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in late 2004 was a tour de force for Mr Lowry, who, after five years directing the Art Gallery of Ontario, became MoMA director in 1995. The capital campaign for the dramatically expanded facility raised an impressive $850m and, since reopening, MoMA has seen attendance soar. Despite critical rumblings about the museum’s increasingly corporate sensibility, the new MoMA is a testament to Lowry’s ability to keep cool in a directorial hot seat. His own area of curatorial expertise, Islamic art, is of potential interest to the Met, which will be reopening its reconfigured Islamic galleries in 2009.

Neil MacGregor
MacGregor is a global thinker who views major museums as international resources—in particular the British Museum (BM), which he has headed since 2002. A deft museum diplomat, he has engineered partnerships between the BM and museums in China and Africa (see p20), and in 2003 sent curators to Iraq to help that country’s ravaged museums. Arriving at the BM after 15 years as director of the National Gallery, London, he brought a runaway deficit under control while moving the museum into a more prominent cultural role. Dubbed “Saint Neil” as much for his popularity as for his devout, if modestly held, religious beliefs, MacGregor is, at 59, a few years older than the other contenders.

Gary Tinterow
If there is an internal front-runner, it is most likely Mr Tinterow. As the Metropolitan’s curator of 19th-century European paintings, he mounted several acclaimed exhibitions, including the 2002 “Manet/Velázquez: the French Taste for Spanish Painting”. In 2004, he was named curator in charge of the newly expanded department of 19th-century, modern and contemporary art; since then, he has ushered the museum into the 21st century with contemporary exhibitions, such as the current Kara Walker show. On staff since 1983, Mr Tinterow is steeped in the spirit of the institution, but it is thought that had he wanted a museum directorship, he would already have had one.

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