At the start of 2017, Max Hollein was director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and Thomas Campbell was director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Now the exact opposite will be true.
After a six-month search by the Fine Arts Museums, Campbell has been tapped to lead the institution, which encompasses the de Young and Legion of Honor museums, Charles Desmarais reports in the San Francisco Chronicle. The former Met director takes the place of Hollein, who stepped down earlier this year to become director of the New York institution, and will begin immediately.
Campbell left the Met after some eight years at its helm, where he earned a reputation for building the museum’s attendance and pushing digitization efforts. However, his departure was clouded by a number of factors: a budget deficit attributed in part to the cost of running the Met Breuer, the stalling of efforts to raise funds for an expansion for contemporary art at the museum’s Fifth Avenue home, and allegations, first reported in the New York Times, that he had “a close personal relationship” with a female staffer that undermined his position at the museum.
“It saddens me that some of my tenure is judged through the prism of the allegations you mention,” Campbell told Desmarais of that last issue, calling it “gossip and innuendo.”
Campbell joined the Met in 1995 as a curator focusing on tapestries, and is often referred to by the affectionate nickname Tapestry Tom. He became director of the Met in 2009. After leaving the museum in 2017, he took up a fellowship at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and Waddesdon Manor in Waddesdon, England.
“I am deeply gratified to take up the responsibility of leading the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,” Campbell said in a statement to press. “It is a great privilege to become part of an institution with such outstanding curatorial expertise and famously loyal audiences and supporters, and I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to continue the great work done by my friend and predecessor Max Hollein.”