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Appointing Yet Another White, Male Director Is a Missed Opportunity for the Met
Liza Oliver*
April 12, 2018 https://news.artnet.com/

*Dr. Liza Oliver was a fellow at the Metropolitan Museum from 2014 to 2015 and she is an assistant professor of art history at Wellesley College.


After Thomas Campbells resignation as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in February 2017, a spate of petitions urged the Met to seriously consider hiring a woman as his replacement.

Several scholars, including me, wrote on the underrepresentation of women, and particularly women of color, in leadership posts in the countrys top museums, despite outnumbering men in positions that typically lead to top jobs. Lest the Mets board think no women are qualified to lead the museum, the website Artnet compiled a list of those exceptionally suited for the job.

When the former Met director Philippe de Montebello responded that expressly setting out to hire a female director was ridiculous, The Times art critic Roberta Smith reminded readers that the Met could very well recruit a woman just as it has frequently sought out only white male directors, often from within the ranks of its institution.

Mr. de Montebellos dismissiveness highlights how white men are often unaware of the manifold ways they have benefited, both historically and presently, from the very identity politics they criticize among women and minorities. Women pushing for a percentage of leadership positions that reflects their numbers are rebuked for prioritizing identity over merit even though more women in the field are better qualified than their male colleagues.

With the announcement on Tuesday that Max Hollein, a 48-year-old born in Vienna, would be its new director, the Met has opted to maintain its status quo. The point is not that Mr. Hollein isnt qualified for the post; its that so are many others, and his hiring sheds light on the implicit biases of museum culture that continue to inform what being qualified means at the Met. In response to criticism of his appointment, Candace Beinecke, a trustee who was a co-leader of the search committee, said, The museums commitment to diversity is evident in everything we do, and the search was no exception to that.

This professed commitment to diversity does not appear to have been put in practice. Mr. Holleins appointment brings the total number of white men hired to lead the institution to 10. Whats more, in March, the Met ended its pay-as-you-wish policy for out-of-state visitors, and now requires that New York state residents show some form of identification for free admission. Such a requirement will likely discriminate against minorities or residents who either dont have legal identification or are reluctant to show it.

Mr. Hollein stood out as a candidate because of his prowess as a developer and aggressive fund-raiser, attractive qualities for a museum in financial turmoil. But the Mets choice of a director based on those attributes is puzzling because, in the aftermath of Mr. Campbells resignation the museum decided to separate artistic and fiscal responsibilities, appointing Daniel Weiss as chief executive and president. Now, instead of taking the opportunity to hire a woman or a person of color or both the Met has put two white men at top, instead of just one.

And Mr. Weiss, it appears, couldnt be happier to have his mirror image as director. The Mets a big, complicated place, and Maxs area of expertise overlaps with mine quite considerably, he said. Im an art historian with an M.B.A., and hes an art historian with an M.B.A.

While women hold the majority of directorships in smaller museums, only 30 percent of museums with budgets of $15 million or more have female directors. Women are once again seeing the glass ceiling they have been bumping their heads against for decades being reinforced by the Met. They can sleep well tonight knowing that not just one white man, but two, are here to steer aright the big and complicated ship that is the Met.


https://news.artnet.com/art-world/women-candidates-director-metropolitan-museum-art-1050329


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