After a year-long search, Max Hollein has been named the new director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, making him the tenth person to head up the New York institution. He is currently the chief executive and director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and he takes the reins from Thomas P. Campbell, who stepped down in June of last year after eight years as director and CEO.
Hollein has been director of the Fine Arts Museums for almost two years. Prior to that, from 2006 to 2016, he had been the head of the Städel Museum and the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection in Frankfurt, Germany; from 2001 to 2006, he was director of the Schirn Kunsthalle, also in Frankfurt. He has curated the American Pavilion at the 2000 Venice Architectural Biennale and the Austrian Pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennale.
Much of Hollein’s achievements have involved the integration of digital initiatives into institutional programming. At the Städel, alongside a $69 million expansion and renovation that doubled the museum’s gallery spaces, he developed a new digital strategy that placed a renewed emphasis on technology and outreach. And at the Fine Arts Museums, Hollein organized “Digital Stories,” a part of the institution’s website that allows users to explore their current exhibitions via interactive displays.
In a statement, Daniel Brodsky, the chairman of the Met’s board, said of Hollein, “He is an innovative and inspiring museum leader and has a proven record of building collections and organizing outstanding exhibitions. His knowledge of and passion for art is expansive, and we have great confidence that he will develop a shared vision and a strong collaboration with our extraordinary curators, conservators, program leaders, and supporters.”
Hollein said of his appointment in a statement, “The Met remains a unique place where visitors can experience firsthand the artistic achievements of humankind. We now have many other ways to disseminate cultural education and knowledge, and an obligation to do so. Celebrating artistic excellence goes hand in hand with broadening the stories we tell about the works of art in our care. Together with Dan, I hope to provide the guidance, energy, and support needed to lead this beloved institution into the future and inspire its audiences in New York and around the world.”
According to the Times report, runners-up for Hollein’s position included Adam D. Weinberg, the director of the Whitney Museum in New York; Taco Dibbits, the director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam; Emilie Gordenker, the director of the Mauritshuis in the Hague; and Julián Zugazagoitia, the chief executive and director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City.
The Met has been without a director since June 2017, when Campbell departed as director and CEO amid reports of ongoing financial difficulties at the museum. Daniel H. Weiss, the Met’s president and chief operating officer, was named CEO that same month. Hollein will not also take the CEO title that Campbell had, meaning that he will be underneath Weiss in the organizational chart. “Max is a formidable intellect—he has a very strong capacity to engage issues at a high level,” said Weiss told the New York Times. “We are going to be genuine partners.”
Shortly before Campbell’s resignation was announced, in February of that year, the New York Times reported that, in 2016, the Met had a budget deficit approaching $40 million. That report came following news of layoffs and the indefinite postponement of a new wing estimated to cost $600 million that was once expected to open in 2020.
This year, the Met faced further criticism when it announced it was shedding its much-loved suggested-donation admissions policy in favor of mandatory fees. Adults who do not live in New York State must pay $25. In the Times report announcing that news, Weiss said that decision was made for financial reasons. In a release today, the Met said that it was on track to balance its budget by 2020.
“Max is a gifted leader and is exceptionally well qualified to serve as our next Director,” Weiss said of Hollein in a statement. “I am confident that ours will be a strong and fruitful partnership, and that Max will help advance The Met’s role as a global leader for culture and the arts.”