The fact that imperial Metropolitan Museum of Art director Philippe de Montebello is ending his 31-year tenure in just a few months is bad enough for the Upper East Side’s delicate collective psyche. But what would happen to the neighborhood’s sense of nobility if the molasses-voiced descendent of Napoleonic aristocracy (and, on his mother’s side, of the Marquis de Sade) actually moved away?
According to city records, Mr. de Montebello and his wife, Edith, director of financial aid at the Trinity School, sold their two-bedroom co-op at 25 East 86th Street this month for $2.195 million.
The buyer is graphic designer Holly Okner, whose father happens to be the investor Peter A. Aron, the chairman of the South Street Seaport Museum from 1987 to 2000.
A Met spokesman wouldn’t comment on the deal, except to say the director has moved to another apartment a few blocks up: “From what I know, Philippe de Montebello would never dream of being far from the Met, and we’re all glad to know he’s going to be in the neighborhood.”
“You can’t write about that,” the listing broker, Suzanne Sealy, told this reporter. “I can’t say anything. No comment.” According to her listing, the apartment has a herringbone-floored foyer, a living room with a wood-burning fireplace, and a “formal dining room, great for entertaining.”
On the downside, the place has only 1,500 square feet. “The point of the move,” a source explained, “is that as he moves into retirement, he wanted a place that was larger and has a more copious home office.” After all, Mr. de Montebello still has work to do: When he’s replaced at the Met, he becomes a professor of museum history and culture at New York University.
Incidentally, Met chairman James R. Houghton got $4.9 million when he sold his apartment at the Majestic earlier this year. “There are things called hotels,” he told The Observer, playing down the importance of real estate deals. “I’ve stayed at the Four Seasons, but I’m also a member of the Harvard Club and the University Club.”