Ossining Man Heads Up the Met


The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that it has chosen Ossining resident Thomas P. Campbell to succeed Philippe de Montebello as its director and CEO. (Um, wow!) Rather than devote himself to cutting-edge, Damien Hirst-dominated modern art, Campbell made his bones in the museum as curator behind two shows that focused on tapestries. Let’s see how the announcement resonated with people who cover the art world:

“Mr. Campbell, untested in a director’s chair, has nonetheless been immersed for the last 13 years or more in the ways of this institution and is clearly committed to it; he is regarded as energetic, level-headed, popular, not visibly unhinged—like at least one curator turned Met director of the past—and not someone whose career was a long public campaign for the job.”
The New York Times

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“Many in the art world would like to have been a fly on the wall when its best-kept secret ever was sealed. News of Campbell’s appointment was so stunning, even to staff within the museum, that the CIA might do well to start recruiting in the Met boardroom.”

“But Campbell may have some reputation-making to do west of the Hudson: Selma Holo, director of USC’s International Museum Institute and Fisher Museum of Art, said Tuesday that she had never heard of him.”
The L.A. Times

“But, while certainly no one doubts his impeccable credentials—holding degrees from Oxford and London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, he’s been responsible for groundbreaking research on the long-overlooked influence of tapestry on European art and propaganda — the question on everyone’s mind this morning is, Is he snooty enough? Since we know virtually nothing about the practical realities of running an art museum—only that Montebello’s patrician air and impressive command over six languages made him an ideal director—we only hope that Campbell can live up to his predecessor’s aristocratic disposition.”
New York magazine

‘The choice of Mr. Campbell is bold, since he has never run so much as a department, let alone a museum. It suggests that the search committee, which was led by the trustees S. Parker Gilbert and Annette de la Renta, believed that the Met should evolve and that it would do so best with a young leader at its head. At the same time, the choice of an insider, and one who is said to be well-liked and respected by other key curators, ensures a relatively smooth transition.”
The New York Sun

“Jonathan Brown, a professor at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, said he was surprised by the board’s selection but called it ‘inspired,’ adding, ‘Tom is the outsider insider, somebody who is young and presumably fresh but at the same time doesn’t have to spend time making all the Met connections.'”
The Wall Street Journal

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Well liked but not known, experienced but untested, novel but not modern—basically, he’s a blank slate. Do us proud, Thomas Campbell!

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