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Austrian Max Hollein new head of New York's Met

April 11, 2018

A year-long search for the next director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art has come to an end; Vienna-born art historian and former head of prestigious museums in Frankfurt, Max Hollein, has been been chosen.

Deutschland 200. Jubiläum des Städel Museums in Frankfurt a.M. EINSCHRÄNKUNG
Image: Städel Museum

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art announced Tuesday that it had named a new director.

In August 2018, Max Hollein, originally from Austria, will take over the reins of the largest art museum in the US, with a collection of over 2 million artworks tracing 5,000 years of art history. 

Hollein currently serves as director and chief executive of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which comprises the de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor. Prior to that, he was director and CEO of three of Germany's most prestigious art institutions, including the Städel Museum, the Schirn Kunsthalle and the Liebieghaus, all in Frankfurt.

Read more: Museum director Max Hollein walks the line between art and finance

A gifted leader

The Met noted in a press statement that Hollein had been elected at a meeting of the Board of Trustees as he "has demonstrated exceptional skill at building collections, diversifying audiences, and broadening institutional development."

During his tenure at Frankfurt's Städel, the museum had notably doubled its exhibition space. At the same time, Hollein oversaw the development of digital strategies and evidenced an uncanny ability at managing exhibitions and collections of artworks spanning centuries, even millennia.

Max Hollein standing in front of a cycle of religious paintings by Emil Nolde
During his tenure at the Städel, the museum doubled its gallery spaceImage: picture-alliance/dpa

"Max is a gifted leader and is exceptionally well qualified to serve as our next director," said Dan Weiss, the Met's president and CEO. "I am confident that ours will be a strong and fruitful partnership, and that Max will help advance the Met's role as a global leader for culture and the arts."

An appointment during difficult times

Hollein's appointment is the first in 60 years that did not come from within the museum's internal ranks. The 10th person to occupy the Met's top post, Hollein succeeds Thomas Campbell, a British tapestries expert, who had been in the role since 2009.

He enters the position in a difficult era; the Met, which has some seven million visitors each year, has had to cut costs and curb hiring after running a $10 million deficit during the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Most recently, the museum made headlines for its decision to charge an admission fee for visitors from outside New York state. Previously, the museum's entrance fee was a suggested donation only.

ct/eg (AFP, kna)