Not that it matters, but I predicted in January 2006 that Kathy Halbreich would become chief of the Museum of Modern Art and I am sticking to that prediction. For two years, sources at MoMA have been encouraging me to tout Glenn Lowry as the natural successor to Phillipe de Montebello at the Metropolitan Museum, in their fervent wish that control-freak Glenn with his autocratic retreats, conferences and fiats would simply move on.
Concerns about Lowry’s compensation package and esoteric menu of past perks, leaked to the New York Times from these same sources, have reduced Lowry’s Met prospects to even money, with Los Angeles County Museum of Art director Michael Govan coming up strong on the outside. Either way, Glenn is a goner for multiple reasons: his band of curatorial sycophants (John Elderfield, Joachim Pissarro, Kynaston McShine) is well on its way to being disbanded through departures and retirements (Pissarro is already gone). This system never worked in the first place, because it was antithetical to MoMA’s solo tradition of successive directors Alfred Barr, Rene d’Harnoncourt and Richard Oldenburg. Kathy Halbreich inherits and fructifies that tradition. Jerry Speyer’s "one thousand per cent endorsement" of Lowry appears to be a swift push out the door.
Lowry’s philosophy of business management for MoMA has also manifestly failed, reducing MoMA from the temple of modernism to a postmodern office building.
What are the specific implications of Halbreich’s ascendancy? The rehabilitation of Robert Storr, who shares a long friendship and a curatorial philosophy, "eclectic conformity," with Halbreich. Alfred Barr went to the MoMA library when he was fired, Storr to Venice. Both came back. Look for that Marlene Dumas retro to be canceled in favor of David Hammons. Halbreich will also sell the P.S.1 property and (finally) integrate the art of the last quarter century into Taniguchiland.
It cannot be underestimated what a threat Gary Tinterow’s slapdash venture into contemporary at the Met is to MoMA. The new photo show there is a singular challenge to Peter Galassi, MoMA’s photo czar, who has grown complacently Chelsea-oriented under Lowry. Halbreich will either liberate Galassi or fire him, all the while integrating photography into her curatorial nexus. The Halbreich incursion, though a conventional one, should push MoMA, necessarily, back to the future.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).