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Metropolitan Museum of Art finalises job description for director search

Search committee conducted "broad outreach" inside and outside the museum to define future leader’s desired traits

Helen Stoilas and Victoria Stapley-Brown

The Great Hall of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Photo: Robin Stevens)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s search for a new director is gearing up. In a meeting on Tuesday, 12 September, the board agreed on a job description that outlines the leader’s responsibilities. Circulated to staff this morning, 13 September, the document looks to address some of the issues the Met has struggled with over the past year, including a deficit of $8m for the 2016 fiscal year, disgruntled staff and the postponement of a planned expansion of the Modern and contemporary art wing.

Although the museum’s president and chief executive, Daniel Weiss, says the director’s role has not “changed in any material way”, the job description makes clear that rather than acting as the top dog, the new director will be expected to work well with others—especially the museum’s president and board.

According to the description, which was posted publicly today, the new director needs “to be a strong and collaborative partner with the President”, while establishing “credibility as the Museum’s artistic leader”. The Met is looking for someone with “a highly developed ‘EQ’ to ensure successful relationship building, fundraising, advocacy, communication, and team building” and “an engaged listener with the ability to build consensus both within the Museum and beyond”.

The role involves overseeing 31 departments, including 17 curatorial offices and five conservation teams, as well as the research, education, digital media, publications, and design divisions. The new director will also manage the collection, including a number of endowed acquisition funds “that generate approximately $26 million annually”, as well as deal with gifts and bequests from patrons.

The job description also says the director will “help shape and support the Met’s commitment to Modern and Contemporary Art, including plans for the Southwest wing”, a $600m extension to the Fifth Avenue building that was put on hold in January. This focus on Modern and Contemporary art is “a work in progress and a major priority for us”, Weiss says.

The list of responsibilities and desired qualities come as the result of months of consultation with the staff and board—as well as former staff and external leaders in the museum field—led by the recruiting firm PhillipsOppenheim. “We did a very broad outreach,” says the museum trustee Candace Beinecke, the co-chair of the search committee, which launched in June.

No candidates have been interviewed as of yet, she says, and there is no specific timeline for the process. Although she expects interviews to begin “soon”, she says: “We don’t have to be in a rush here, things are going well and we’ll take our time”.

Members of the public are free to send comments and suggestions for the search consultants at MetMuseum2017@PhillipsOppenheim.com.