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Barratt’s Back: A Harbinger of the Met’s Administrative Readjustments? UPDATED

Last July, it was reported that the Metropolitan Museum’s deputy director for collections and administration, Carrie Rebora Barratt, was one of those who had taken a voluntary buyout at the Met. Now, it appears, she’s back: She was quoted in today’s Met press release about the gift 91 works of Native American art from the collection of Charles and Valerie Diker.

UPDATE: Met CEO Daniel Weiss has since informed me that, notwithstanding press reports, Barratt never left.

Here’s a highlight from a previous Met show from the Diker Collection, which closed last Friday:

Dress and Belt with Awl Case, Wasco artist, ca. 1870
©Charles and Valerie Diker Collection; Photo: Dirk Bakker

I had done a doubletake at the Met’s Feb. 6 press preview for its Hercules Segers exhibition, when I saw Barratt standing with director Tom Campbell, while listening to curator Nadine Orenstein‘s introductory remarks. On Mar. 20, after a Met staffer had tipped me off that Barratt was indeed back at the museum, I sent this query (along with several others) to Kenneth Weine, the Met’s chief communications officer:

A Met source told me that Carrie Barratt is back at the Met, and I did see her with Tom at the Segers preview. What is her current Met position and/or function?

To that and several other questions, I got no reply.

What’s more remarkable than Carrie’s return to her former role is that she, not Campbell, was the one whose celebratory comments about the Met’s Native American windfall were quoted in the above-linked press release. Major acquisition announcements are customarily made by the director.

Carrie Rebora Barratt at the press preview for the Met’s 2009 “American Stories” show, which she co-curated
Screenshot from video by Lee Rosenbaum

All of this leads me to wonder if Campbell’s directorial role has already greatly shrunk. (His CEO job has been transferred to President Daniel Weiss.) Perhaps my recent guess is true—that he may be leaving his lame-duck directorship before the June 30 announced date, because recent blows to the Met’s finances and staff (and to Campbell’s professional and personal reputation) have rendered his continued leadership there unworkable. Barratt may help take up some of the slack while the Met regroups and makes important decisions about its organizational future.

I had never mentioned Barratt as a possible candidate for the director’s spot, because she seemed too closely associated with Campbell’s ill-fated tenure. But maybe…

For now, though, back to the Diker Collection:

An exhibition devoted to its holdings—2nd to early 20th century, in “a wide variety of aesthetic forms and media”—is planned for fall 2018. Going forward, Diker objects will be kept in close proximity to other art from the geographical region where they were made—in the American Wing, not the Michael Rockefeller Wing for Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, which has long been the Met’s home for Native American objects.

In his NY Times article about the Diker gift, Randy Kennedy describes how a few Native American works have already been interspersed with works from the American Art department. But unmentioned is that this cross-pollination is not completely new for the Met: In Randall Griffey‘s refreshingly provocative and eclectic reinstallation of the Met’s permanent collection from 1900-1950—Reimagining Modernism—the associate curator for modern and contemporary art inserted some Native American art (as well as Latin American art) into the modernist canon.

Here’s one example:

Nampeyo, Jar, ca. 1900, gift to the Met from the Ralph Coe Foundation for the Arts
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Speaking of felicitous interrelationships among disparate objects: near the Nampeyo jar is a watercolor by Victor Higgins, a Taos artist who had owned that same Pueblo ceramic:

Victor Higgins, “New Mexico,” 1930s
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

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