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New York's Metropolitan Museum Announces Max Hollein As New Director


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is a major cultural institution; important not just in the U.S. but around the world. It houses statues from 3000 B.C. to paintings by Van Gogh and draws visitors from all over. And for a year, it's been without a director. That changed yesterday when the museum announced that Max Hollein would be taking the post. NPR's Andrew Limbong has more.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: First, you've got to know that The Met was not in a great place a little over a year ago. Then-Director Thomas Campbell stepped down unexpectedly after only nine years on the job. And while attendance was up, money was tight, like running at millions of dollars in the red tight. Cost-cutting measures were taken - layoffs, delaying big projects, charging non-New Yorkers $25 for admission. Here's Lori Fogarty, the president of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

LORI FOGARTY: The Met is an incredible and powerful institution that was going to weather this change, but I think it was a very difficult period of transition.

LIMBONG: Of course, directing a museum isn't just about the art on the walls. It's fundraising, dealing with city officials, managing a staff, being the outward face of the company.

FOGARTY: And that's one of the real challenges, and it's become an increasing challenge for museum director recruitment, you know, in contemporary times because there are so many aspects to the job that people have just not either had experience or training for it.

LIMBONG: The museum is betting on the fact that Max Hollein does have the experience. He's relatively young, 48, but he's got a background in both business and art, and he's already run three museums in Germany. While there, he did an interview with a consulting group called m/Oppenheimer (ph). He told them that he was interested in what museums could do besides housing art - creating educational games, online art history courses and making documentaries.


MAX HOLLEIN: And something that can be used or can be experienced all the way beyond just visiting the museum.

LIMBONG: For the last two years, he's been the director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which was also dealing with unexpected turnover at the top.

FOGARTY: So Max stepped into a situation at the Fine Arts Museums that was also very challenging and brought a lot of stability and a lot of positive impact in a short amount of time.

LIMBONG: Fogarty, who is also the director of the Oakland Museum of California, knows Hollein from working in the Bay Area art scene. She says he brought a lot of important work to the museum in that time, too.

FOGARTY: Particularly African-American work, and I think he's done some interesting kind of innovative projects and really juxtaposing contemporary art to more historical work.

LIMBONG: Hollein starts one of the world's most high-profile art gigs this summer. Andrew Limbong, NPR News Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.
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