Former Met Director Philippe de Montebello Says Recession Might be Good for the Museum

On Wednesday, Oct. 29., the French-born Philippe de Montebello was honored at the French Institute Alliance Francaise’s Trophee des Arts Gala at the Plaza for his longstanding career as the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"I always like to be honored!" Mr. Montebello told the Daily Transom. "I have no idea how they found me, I guess they must have looked me up in the phone book or something."

Mr. Montebello, who came to the U.S. from Paris when he was a teenager, has served as the Met’s director since 1977. He was the longest serving director in the museum’s history before announcing in January that he will step down at the end of the year; he will be replaced by Met curator Thomas Campbell. During his tenure, Mr. Montebello  acquired works such as Vincent Van Gogh‘s Wheat Field with Cypresses and Jasper JohnsWhite Flag, and the Daily Transom wondered if Ms. Montebello was nervous about the museum’s well-being in his absence during a time of financial instability. 

"No, we’re doing well. We are obviously nervous about the economy in the non-profit world. Fundraising–and, if you depend to a certain degree on city funding, which we do–is going to be difficult," he said. "But we are well-positioned and the institution is strong. We’ll survive."

But while gallerists and art collectors might be dreading lower attendance at art fairs and an ultimate drop in prices, Mr. Montebello said that it will actually be a positive thing for the museum. 

"Right now, I think we’re certainly in a bubble in contemporary art prices and if prices plunge then hopefully museums can buy again. Prices have gotten extraordinarily high. For the museums there is no question: If prices of art go down, it good for us," he said. "We’re not sellers, we’re buyers."  Former Met Director Philippe de Montebello Says Recession Might be Good for the Museum