Philippe de Montebello will be announced as the new board chairman of Washington Heights’s Hispanic Society of America, succeeding George B. Moore, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal. Though the museum houses one of the world’s best collections of art and manuscripts (250,00 printed books, 6,000 watercolors and drawings, and 90,000 photographs) from Portugal, Spain, and Latin America, it is one of the city’s perennially overlooked institutions, something that de Montebello is hoping to change.
In a statement citing the museum’s works by Velázquez (“[we have] not one, or two, but three paintings,” de Montebello added) and El Greco, de Montebello calls the museum’s collection one of the “most comprehensive of its kind outside of Spain and Latin America.” He also praises its historical atmosphere in lieu of the “white-cube pharmaceutical coldness” so popular with arts institutions today.
De Montebello served as director of the Met for 31 years, from 1977 to 2008, and currently teaches at New York University. He joined the Hispanic Society’s board of overseers four years ago.
During his tenure as director at the Met, he almost doubled the museum’s physical size, a success he would like to recreate at the Hispanic Society. Already, he is planning to raise $5 million to renovate the adjacent former home of the Museum of the American Indian for the purpose of hosting exhibitions.