The mellifluous voice of Philippe de Montebello will
next be heard in classrooms at New York University's Institute of Fine
Arts, where he will become the first professor to teach the history and
culture of museums.
Mr. de Montebello, who has been the director of
the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 31 years, announced in January that
he would step down around the end of the year, or as soon as a successor
His new job is to be announced Tuesday night at a dinner celebrating the
institute's 75th anniversary. In addition to teaching at N.Y.U., he
will advise the university on its plan for a new overseas campus at Abu
Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
"It's a wonderful new chapter," said Mr. de Montebello, who earned his
master's degree in art history at the institute. "It's something I've
always wanted to do."
Mr. de Montebello, who turned 72 on Friday, said he planned to teach
full time. But rather than lecturing on what might seem most obvious —
how to run a museum, for example, or the history of 15th- and
16th-century French and Netherlandish painting, his scholarly area of
expertise — he said he would cover the history of collecting and
connoisseurship and the evolution of museums, including the central
issue of how the museum's mission can be defined in today's world.
"I see this as an entire second career for Philippe," said Mariët
Westermann, director of the Institute of Fine Arts and vice chancellor
for N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi.
"Over the years I've gotten to know Philippe not just as a museum
director but as an intellect," she said. "About a year ago we got
talking about what might happen next with the institute and with him. It
was so fortuitous."
As an adviser on the Abu Dhabi project, Mr. de Montebello will help
shape the new campus's visual arts offerings. The first liberal arts
campus to be established in the Middle East by a major American research
university, it is being paid for and built by the Abu Dhabi government.
Students are expected to begin enrolling in 2010.
"That's the icing on the cake; it's a part of the world I love," Mr. de
Montebello said. "I will teach a shortened version of my course there in
a couple of years."
Ms. Westermann said the visual arts curriculum at Abu Dhabi would be
"very important," especially because of the ambitious program to build
museums in the emirate. Both the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the
Louvre plan to open satellite institutions in a new cultural district
there over the next few years.
Mr. de Montebello's appointment as a professor will become effective
either in January 2009 or upon the arrival of his successor at the Met.
In addition to teaching, Mr. de Montebello said, he intends to continue
lecturing before the public. He will also be a consultant to museums
abroad that he declined to name, advising them on modernizing their
By Carol Vogel
For The New York Times