The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York announced today that Max Hollein, who currently leads the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, will be its next director. The appointment marks the first time in sixty years that the museum has appointed a leader from outside of the institution. Hollein succeeds Thomas P. Campbell, who stepped down after an eight-year term, amid controversy, in February 2017.
Born in Vienna, Hollein studied art history at the University of Vienna and business administration at the Vienna University of Economics. He began his career as chief of staff and executive assistant to the director at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. He would eventually become the director and CEO of three prestigious German institutions: the Schirn Kunsthalle, which focuses on modern and contemporary art; the Städel Museum, which houses a significant collection of old master, nineteenth-century, and modern art; and the Liebieghaus, whose sculpture collection features work ranging from ancient Egyptian to Neoclassical. During his tenures at the museums, they each saw record levels of attendance, and the Städel was named “Museum of the Year” by the German members of the International Association of Art Critics.
Hollein relocated to the United States in 2016 to take over the reins of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which comprise the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor. While at the helm of these institutions, Hollein spearheaded initiatives such as Digital Stories, a multimedia program that allows visitors to take an in-depth look at exhibitions; developed free online courses, which enable the museums to engage with a wider audience; and made securing acquisitions in underrepresented areas of the collection a priority.
“While it is sad to see Max leave and we would have wished to be able to benefit much longer from his strong and visionary leadership, we are impressed and energized by all the achievements, development, and momentum that he brought to our museums in the past two years,” Dede Wilsey, the board chair of the Fine Arts Museums, said.
Hollein joins the Met at somewhat of a turbulent time. The institution was forced to come to terms with a growing $10 million deficit last year, which led to a hiring freeze and the decision to halt its plans to build a $600 million modern and contemporary art wing. The museum also has faced scrutiny for ending its pay-what-you-wish admissions policy earlier this year.
When Hollein takes up the post this summer, he will be responsible for the artistic vision and leadership of the Met and its encyclopedic collection of nearly two million objects spanning five thousand years. Hollein will report to the museum’s president and CEO, Dan Weiss. Commenting on the appointment, Weiss said: “Max is a gifted leader and is exceptionally well qualified to serve as our next director. 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.”