Thursday, 10 January 2008
As I mentioned in this post, the British Museum's director Neil MacGregor is everyone's favorite candidate to succeed Philippe de Montebello at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Besides the legendary Anne d'Harnoncourt of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who is unlikely to be lured away for any job, it would be difficult to think of another currently serving director that has so ably demonstrated the personal integrity, scholarly chops and administrative ability that the Met's search committee will be looking for in de Montebello's successor.
It would appear that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has noticed the threat of the country's greatest non-profit leader leaving for America and has quickly made some moves to urge him to stay. (The offer of a knighthood proved insufficient in the past- "Saint" Neil, as is staff his said to call him, turned it down.) Culture Secretary James Purnell named MacGregor to the grandiose position "Chairman of World Collections." The job, which is in effect that of a culture ambassador to encourage international loans of Britain's collections, appears timed and targeted to make Neil's departure from the UK difficult. The Art Newspaper article I link to above does not give an indication of exactly when this happened, but it appears so recent that the Department's website has not yet posted the press release. One can only conclude that the announcement's timing, one day after de Montebello declared his intention to retire, is no coincidence. Well played, Perfide Albion, well played!