an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me

Neil MacGregor of British Museum is London Times&#146 “Briton of the Year”

Neil MacGregor

Can you imagine a U.S. newspaper’s ever naming a museum director as its American of the Year?

Culture must be king in Great Britain.

The London Times has just designated the British Museum’s director, Neil MacGregor, as its “Briton of the Year.” Barack Obama was the Times’ Person of the Year. This is the first time that the Times has bestowed such honors.

of the Times, lauded MacGregor as “a man who had
managed—by what often felt like charm and enthusiasm alone—to turn a
financial basket case back into a cultural jewel….By emphasising the importance of an international community of inquiry…, he has helped to create a global society that is quite separate from others
that constantly get caught up in the squabblings of government and politics.”

All true. But the Greeks, Egyptians, and Nigerians, “squabbling” (respectively) over the Elgin Marbles, Rosetta Stone and Benin bronzes, might beg to differ.

The Times profile provides some interesting personal details:

He appears to have little interest in the trappings of his position. He is the
first director not to live in a grand apartment on the premises of the
British Museum. He owns few paintings—he was spoilt by his time at the
National Gallery, he jokes. He turned down a knighthood, though he does not
discuss it. And he appears to find his satisfaction and reward in the simple
fulfilment of a civic duty.

As for Obama, the Times declared him to be “unusual among modern presidents in coming from the Northern
urban Left.” I guess if you string together enough modifiers, anyone can be unusual. The key thing about Obama, though, from the American perspective, is that he “comes from” a wide variety of places.

an ArtsJournal blog