A Director for the Met: A Young European

After 31 years of the leadership of the legendary Philippe de Montebello, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York went in-house, and young, and British. Thomas Campbell, a 46-year-old curator in the department of European sculpture and decorative arts, was the talent behind the Met’s quiet blockbuster in 2002, "Tapestry in the Renaissance," and […]

After 31 years of the leadership of the legendary Philippe de Montebello, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York went in-house, and young, and British.

Thomas Campbell, a 46-year-old curator in the department of European sculpture and decorative arts, was the talent behind the Met’s quiet blockbuster in 2002, "Tapestry in the Renaissance," and the young prince tapped for one of the most important jobs in art scholarship and preservation in the world.

Leading lights in the art world like Neil MacGregor at the British Museum, or Michael Govan here at the L.A. County Museum of Art, were passed over, as was reported finalist Max Hollein, of the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt.

The choice of Campbell, who is young and untested as a leader, may reflect a desire for change and dynamism (can we call it the Obama effect?). But he is nonetheless rooted in the very traditional, Eurocentric traditions of museum scholarship. Will he have the vision to take the Met through the challenges that it and other encyclopaedic museums are facing in the 21st century?

I, for one, hope that Campbell will consider a fundamental change in the museum’s posture when it comes to its own history of collecting and provenance. Greater transparency, and a sharing of this history with the public, is necessary for the Met to be worthy of its reputation as one of the finest museums in the world. More on this, of course, when "Loot" is published.