(January 14, 1998) — Noting that President William H. Luers plans to retire in the spring of 1999, Arthur Ochs Sulzburger, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, today announced that at yesterday's meeting of the Trustees, the Board adopted a Report on Governance which reaffirms that the positions of both Director and President will remain essential to the effective leadership of the Museum.
The report concludes that the effective management of the institution requires that the Director and President continue operating as partners with a close working relationship, and that following Mr. Luers's retirement, the Board will facilitate this essential coordination by specifying that the new President report to the Director, Philippe de Montebello. Mr. de Montebello will be designated as Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan, with responsibility for the overall leadership of the Museum and for coordinating the responsibilities of the two offices.
Both the Director and the next Museum President will continue to serve as ex officio Trustees and make reports to the Board and Board Committees.
"This is an evolutionary change that will insure strong leadership of the Museum's complex operations as we move into the 21st Century," Mr. Sulzberger stated in issuing the Trustees' Report on Governance. "We believe that it will help propel the Museum to new heights of critical acclaim, scholarly achievement, audience growth, and financial strength."
The Trustees' Report notes that the Museum is enjoying success unprecedented in its history and that Mr. de Montebello, who deserves much of the credit, is widely recognized as the premiere museum director in the country. It also notes that the scope and complexity of the Museum's activities mandate that it continue to have a highly capable executive in charge of administrative and fiscal matters, government and community affairs, with a major fundraising role. The Trustees note the Mr. Luers's outstanding performance of the responsibilities of that office has supported the Director's vision of the artistic and educational mission of the Museum, and has been indispensable to the Museum's success in recent years.
Philippe de Montebello is the eighth Director of the Metropolitan. He became Acting Director in July 1977, and Director in May 1978. With the exception of his four-and-a-half years as Director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (1969-1974), Mr. de Montebello has spent his entire professional career at the Metropolitan, joining its staff as curatorial assistant in 1963, rising to Associate Curator in the Department of European Paintings, and eventually to the post of Vice Director for Curatorial and Educational Affairs. Under his leadership as Director, the museum has expanded, reinstalled, and republished much of its permanent collection. Among his recent initiatives are the reinstallation of the galleries for 19th-century European paintings and sculpture, the conservation and installation of the Gubbio Studiolo, the opening of the Antonio Ratti Center for Textile Conservation, and the opening of the new Chinese Galleries for paintings and decorative arts and the Howard Gilman Gallery for Photographs. Mr. de Montebello is now supervising the complete reconstruction and reinstallation of the classical collection in space so vast that when open to the public, the collection will constitute the largest museum of Greek and Roman art in the Western Hemisphere.
Under Mr. de Montebello's leadership, the Museum has also organized hundreds of critically acclaimed special exhibitions, most recently and prominently, The Glory of Byzantium and The Private Collection of Edgar Degas.
William H. Luers became President of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1986 after a long and distinguished career in the United States Foreign Service. He served as American Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1983-1986) and to Venezuela (1978-1982), and held important diplomatic posts in Italy, Germany, The Soviet Union, and at the State Department in Washington.
At the Metropolitan, he has presided over the doubling of the Museum's endowment; installed modernized financial systems; expanded outreach to and support from the City and State governments; and helped build and maintain funding support for new galleries, wings, exhibitions, and public programs.
Mr. Luers has been active in promoting New York City tourism and economic development, serving as a member of the executive committee of the New York City Partnership, and a member of the board of both the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Economic Club of New York. He was also a founder of the national organization, Americans United to Save the Arts and Humanities.