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Here’s Some Advice for Young Art Historians From a Former Director of the Met

Rorimer.COURTESY MONUMENTS MEN FOUNDATION

Hoving Rorimer.

COURTESY MONUMENTS MEN FOUNDATION

A colleague was recently reading John McPhee’s excellent and epic 1967 New Yorker profile of Metropolitan Museum director Thomas Hoving, and drew my attention to a passage that offers some sage advice for anyone pursuing a career in the art industry.

Here’s the set up. It’s 1959, and Hoving has recently picked up his Ph.D. at Princeton. He’s talking with James R. Rorimer, who was then director of the Met, and telling him that he’s thinking about working for a gallery. He’s already had interviews with George Wildenstein and the Knoedler gallery, he says.

“Really?” Rorimer responded. “I’m surprised. Go to a dealer and you’ll never work at any museum in the United States. Go to a museum and you can later work, if you like, at any dealer’s shop in the world.”

Hoving ended up working for the Met at a starting salary of $5,005, and in 1966 succeeded Rorimer in the top job after he died of a heart attack. He never became a dealer.

The whole profile, which is well worth a read, is available to New Yorker subscribers on the magazine’s website.

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