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Sheena Wagstaff Hired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Carol Vogel reports for the New York Times that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has recruited Sheena Wagstaff to head its new department of twentieth- and twenty-first-century art. Vogel notes that Wagstaff’s appointment accompanies the Met’s plans to move its modern and contemporary holdings into the Whitney Museum’s Marcel Breuer building on Madison Avenue in 2015, after the Whitney vacates it to move downtown.

Wagstaff, who in the 1980s was the first Briton to participate in the Whitney’s Independent Study Program, has been the chief curator at Tate Modern since 2001, after serving as head of exhibitions and displays at Tate Britain. She has organized major exhibitions ranging from “Edward Hopper,” 2004, to “Jeff Wall: Photographs 1978–2004,” 2005. Wagstaff has also worked at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, and the Frick Museum, where she was director of collections, exhibitions, and education.

By hiring Wagstaff and reorganizing, Thomas P. Campbell, the Met’s director, is reversing his predecessor Philippe de Montebello’s decision to devote one single department to nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first-century art. Campbell has said he will be moving nineteenth-century works back into the department of European painting, headed by Keith Christiansen. “I’ve been conscious since I became director that a timely recalibration of modern and contemporary art . . . was something we had to do,” Campbell said in a telephone interview. Calling Wagstaff the “most outstanding candidate,” Campbell added, “Sheena is knowledgeable and well respected in the community. There was chemistry.”