Philippe de Montebello, who stepped down as director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art after 31 years in January, will become New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts’ first professor to teach the history, evolution and culture of museums. An announcement will be made tonight at a dinner celebrating the institute’s 75th anniversary, according to the New York Times. 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.”