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Who Should Succeed Philippe at the Met? The Chairman’s Got a Little List

Last week, in a post about a new organization to train curators for museum directorships, I speculated that one of that group’s advisors, the Metropolitan Museum’s veteran director Philippe de Montebello, might worried about who will be chosen as his own successor.

In that connection, I’ve learned from a highly place Met source that each year the museum’s chairman, James Houghton (whom I’ve previously queried about the Met’s succession plans), asks Philippe for a list of people who could admirably perform his job if, for any reason, he were unable to do so. My source (not Houghton) could not tell me who was on that list.

That said, museum directors don’t always get the chance to handpick their successors, and it’s not unusual for boards to opt from someone whose style sharply contrasts with the incumbent: think Tom Krens/Tom Messer; Glenn Lowry/Richard Oldenburg; Adam Weinberg/Max Anderson.

Tom Hoving/Philippe de Montebello was perhaps the starkest contrast of all—the self-promoter vs. the self-effacer. But in that case, oddly enough, the successor WAS the incumbent’s pick. Even odder, the new director was a dark horse, lacking a Ph.D., and conventional wisdom doubted he was up to the demands of the job.

Always the contrarian, I indicated (in a long ARTnews profile based on extensive interviews at the time of Philippe’s ascension) that I thought the new appointee had the goods.
Was I right?

an ArtsJournal blog