Thomas Campbell, a curator in the department of European sculpture and decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will be the next director and CEO of the museum, the Met announced yesterday.
Mr. Campbell, 46, who curated two highly praised exhibitions of Renaissance and Baroque tapestries, will succeed Philippe de Montebello, who has served as director for 30 years. Mr. Campbell will take office January 1.
The choice of Mr. Campbell is bold, since he has never run so much as a department, let alone a museum. It suggests that the search committee, which was led by the trustees S. Parker Gilbert and Annette de la Renta, believed that the Met should evolve and that it would do so best with a young leader at its head. At the same time, the choice of an insider, and one who is said to be well-liked and respected by other key curators, ensures a relatively smooth transition.
The search committee, which included 10 other trustees besides Mr. Gilbert and Ms. de la Renta, formally recommended Mr. Campbell to the full board at its meeting Tuesday afternoon, after which the board voted to confirm the appointment.
Mr. Campbell, who was born and raised in Cambridge, England, holds a B.A. from Oxford University and a Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. At the Met, where he has worked since 1995, he is the supervising curator of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center. He curated the 2002 exhibition "Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence" and a second exhibition, "Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor," which closed in January. He also wrote catalogs for both shows.
The directorship of the Met is one of the most prominent museum positions in the world. The Met has more visitors annually than any other art museum in New York — 4.6 million in 2007 — and the largest collection of any art museum in the country, with more than 2 million objects.
Today's announcement ends a nearly eight-month search, during which information about the search committee's activities was closely held. With the help of a search firm, Phillips Oppenheim, the committee interviewed numerous candidates, including the directors of several museums around the world and at least two heads of departments within the Met itself. The director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, was reported to have been approached by the committee but to have turned them down.
In selecting Mr. Campbell, the board chose someone who is close to the age that Mr. de Montebello was when he became director of the Met in 1977 and who can theoretically hold the position for a similar length of time.
Before beginning to seriously interview candidates, the committee was said to have held more general discussions about the proper direction for the museum in the post-de Montebello era. Much discussion in the press focused on whether the Met should place more emphasis on Contemporary art. The appointment of Mr. Campbell, however, does not suggest a strong turn in that direction.