TOP MET JOB TO RUG MAN
On Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008, the Metropolitan Museum of Art announced that its new director would be Thomas P. Campbell, a 46-year-old Englishman who has been the museum’s tapestry expert for the last 14 years. Campbell received his B.A. in English literature from the University of Oxford in 1984, and took the Christie’s London fine and decorative arts course the next year. He received his Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute in 1999 on the art and culture of King Henry VIII’s court. At the Met, he has organized two hit shows: "Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence" (2002) and "Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor" (2007). He is also supervising curator of the museum’s Antonio Ratti Textile Center. His most recent book is Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty: Tapestries at the Tudor Court (Yale University Press, 2007). He lives in Westchester with his wife and their two children.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the job involves managing a staff of 2,600, a $201 million operating budget, and a $1 billion-plus capital campaign. The new director’s pay is confidential, of course, but the Met paid the current director, Philippe de Montebello, a salary of over $4.5 million in 2006 (which included a bonus for serving past his 70th birthday); his total compensation in 2005 was something like $850,000. The Met’s 12-member search committee was headed by Annette de la Renta and S. Parker Gilbert, who are vice chairs of the museum’s trustee board, and included Daniel Brodsky, Russell Carson, Robert Joffe, Susana Torruella Leval, Cynthia Hazen Polsky, Frank Richardson, James Shipp, Lulu Wang and Shelby White. Met board chair James R. Houghton was an ex-officio member of the committee.
At a press conference on Sept. 10, Hougton emphasized that Campbell’s appointment is in line with "the signature traditions of the museum," noting that in the Met’s 135-year history, its directors had been elevated from the ranks of the staff in all but two instances. Campbell’s selection was also billed as a triumph of scholarship over the more philistine skills of management and fund-raising. "Scholarly knowledge is the lodestone of the institution," said de Montebello.
Campbell, too, emphasized that the museum staff was its greatest strength and his best resource. As for any predictions about his future course -- his attitudes towards contemporary art, for instance, or his position on the now-waning controversies over antiquities -- Campbell demurred, saying repeatedly that it was too soon to comment.
Up on the panel -- which included Houghton and Met president Emily K. Rafferty as well as de Montebello -- Campbell proved to be a tentative and even awkward speaker (a condition that should clear up with practice). Despite the appealing English accent, he still managed to put his foot in it once or twice, when he noted that the museum hardly needed "another wonkish manager" -- at which point Rafferty raised her hand and joked, "Ms. Wonk here" -- and also when he noted that "good leadership depends on good advice," comparing himself to Henry VIII, who "listened to his advisors, before he cut off their heads."
What of Gary Tinterow, the Met’s supercurator of 19th-century, modern and contemporary art and a finalist for the director’s position? One observer predicted that he is likely to depart the institution for a job elsewhere. "Some say the Met would never have a director who is both gay and a Jew," he added, noting of course that such prejudices are no doubt a thing of the past.
NEW MUSEUM BUYS BUILDING NEXT DOOR
The New Museum of Contemporary Art is definitely on a roll. After opening its spectacular $50-million new facility on the Bowery about a year ago, the museum has now purchased the six-story, 47,000-square-foot industrial building next door at 231 Bowery for a reported price of $16.6 million. New Museum board president Saul Dennison said the museum had no immediate plans for the structure, which currently houses a restaurant supply company on the ground floor and some artist’s studios (and some vacant spaces) upstairs.
JEFF KOONS AT VERSAILLES
Something new is on view at the Palace of Versailles, the Ancien Régime château in the Paris suburb. It’s "Jeff Koons Versailles," Sept. 10-Dec. 14, 2008, an installation of more than 15 Koons works in rooms of the famed palace, a show overseen by Elena Geuna and Pompidou Center conservator Laurent Le Bon. Each room in the palace has a single Koons sculpture. For instance, Koons’ stainless-steel bust of Louis XIV (1986) is in the Salon de Mercure, where the king slept, while Koons’ Moon (1995-2000), a large, blue-tinted convex mirror, is placed in the Hall of Mirrors, where mirrors reflected sunlight into a golden crown above the Sun King’s head.
Koons noted that his balloons represent bloated egos, and so Balloon Dog (1994-2006) is placed in the Salon du Hercules. And of course Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988) is on hand, since Michael is the "king" of pop, and at the time of Louis XIV, porcelain was a luxury restricted to royalty. A great fan of Louis XIV, Koons said that he felt that his existing work "was happy" in Versailles and that the king would have been able to appreciate it. The show represents the first time Koons’ work has been seen in France since his 1997 exhibition at Galerie Jerôme de Noirmont. Meanwhile, during the press conference, demonstrators gathered outside, claiming that the show was a lamentable example of American cultural imperialism.
BIG ART ACQUISITIONS AT TATE
Tate, the U.K. museum network that includes two museums in London as well as satellites in Liverpool and St. Ives, certainly goes all out on art acquisitions. According to a story in the Bloomberg News, Tate has announced that it acquired art worth £63.1 million ($112 million) in 2007-08, including four works by Damien Hirst, two paintings by Francis Bacon, works by Lucian Freud, Balthus and Louise Bourgeois’ 30-foot-tall spider sculpture Maman (1999), and another 485 works. Of the total, an impressive 320 were given or bequeathed by collectors and artists.
YADDO AT THE LIBRARY
The New York Public Library presents "Yaddo: Making American Culture," Oct. 24, 2008-Feb. 15, 2009, a major exhibition exploring the history of the 108-year-old artist’s retreat in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Organized by sociologist Micki McGee, the show features letters, papers, photos, books, artworks, film clips and sound recordings from the Yaddo archives, which became part of the NYPL collection in 1999. Also on hand: Yaddo’s large dining table, where the retreat’s illustrious and prize-winning guests have gathered over the years.
$250,000 HEINZ AWARD TO ANN HAMILTON
Environmental artist Ann Hamilton, 52, a professor of art at Ohio State University in Columbus, Oh., has received a $250,000 Heinz Award from the Heinz Family Foundation, chaired by Teresa Heinz Kerry and honoring the late Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz. The other winners are Thomas FitzGerald, founder of the Kentucky Resources Council; Brenda Krause Eheart, founder of Generations of Hope and Hope Meadows; Robert Greenstein, founder of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C.; and Joseph DeRisi, a molecular biologist.
DARSIE ALEXANDER TO WALKER ART CENTER
Darsie Alexander, senior curator and department head of contemporary art at the Baltimore Museum of Art, has been named chief curator at the Walker Art Center. At the BMA, Alexander organized "SlideShow" (2005), the first major survey of contemporary art using projected slides, and a survey of Franz West that opens at the museum in October 2008. Alexander succeeds Philippe Vergne, who was appointed head of the Dia Art Foundation last month.
N.B. FOR ARTS WRITERS
The deadline to apply for grants from the Creative Capital / Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program is Sept. 22, 2008. Approximately 20 projects are to receive grants of between $3,000 and $50,000 in 2008. For more details, see www.artswriters.org