The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced that director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell will resign, effective June 30, 2017.
Campbell's resignation comes in response to growing concern on the part of staff members and trustees about the institution's financial health. In 2016, three months after it announced a two-year financial restructuring that included a hiring freeze and voluntary buyouts, the museum turned to layoffs to help shrink its deficit. But it was not enough, and, according to the New York Times, key members of the board — including Hamilton E. James, who chairs the museum's finance committee — decided it was time for Campbell to go. Over the next few months, Daniel H. Weiss, the Met's president and COO, will serve as interim CEO and will work with Campbell and the curatorial and administrative teams on a leadership transition plan.
Hired in 1996 as an assistant curator in the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts and as the supervising curator of the Antonio Ratti Textile Center, Campbell succeeded Philippe de Montebello as CEO in 2009. During Campbell's tenure, the Met acquired the old Whitney Museum on Madison Avenue and re-opened it as the Met Breuer; received a gift of Cubist masterworks from Leonard A. Lauder worth an estimated $1 billion; saw annual attendance across its three sites increase 40 percent, to a record seven million; and created a digital department that today produces content for a global online audience of thirty million.
But concerns over deficits projected to reach $40 million in 2017 led to a roll-back of Campbell's original agenda — including construction of a new $600 million wing for modern and contemporary art — and growing criticism of his management skills among some trustees, curators, and staff. At the same time, many inside and outside the institution have questioned the role of the board in the Met's difficulties, the Times reports, in no small part because it was the board that originally backed Campbell's expansion plans, having promoted him to the position of director with a mandate to strengthen the institution's modern and contemporary art holdings.
"I couldn't be more proud of the Met's accomplishments during my tenure as director and CEO," said Campbell in a statement. "[T]he museum has evolved into a beacon of scholarship and understanding, not only for visitors to our New York sites, but globally through digital platforms, leadership exchanges, and more. At a moment when art and culture have an especially profound role to play in fostering mutual understanding, I am especially proud that our visitor base is the largest and most diverse in the museum's history. At the same time, we are on track to be financially stable and have a solid strategic path forward."
According to the Times, the full board was informed of the decision in a conference call during which board chair Daniel Brodsky took no questions and did not mention the formation of a search committee for Campbell's successor. One possibility is Weiss, a former president of Haverford and Lafayette colleges and doctor of philosophy (Johns Hopkins University) in Western medieval and Byzantine art who was hired in 2015 in a move viewed as a way to compensate for Campbell's managerial inexperience.
"We are not looking to appoint a new director immediately," Brodsky said in a letter to board and staff members, "but instead will take some time to consider the leadership needs of the museum in a thoughtful and deliberative way."