Daniel Weiss, chief executive of the Met Museum, resigns


He came on board in 2015 to stabilize a struggling Metropolitan Museum of Art, led the museum after one director was ousted, then shared power with another. But on Tuesday, Daniel H. Weiss told the museum’s board that he would step down as chairman and CEO in June 2023.

“The institution is in a strong and positive position – I’m proud of the work we’ve done,” Weiss, 65, said in an interview. “I think it’s always better to know when the right time is. I am ready to do something else.

Weiss, the former president of Haverford College and art historian, said he wasn’t sure what his next chapter would be, though he looked forward to getting back to more writing and maybe to be teaching. The board will now assess whether to replace Weiss or abandon its two-tier leadership structure, unusual for art museums and put in place in 2017.

The model appeared to serve the Met well, with Weiss serving as chairman, chief executive and administrator, while its trustees – Thomas P. Campbell, who resigned under pressure in 2017, and Max Hollein, who was appointed in 2018 – provided the curatorial vision and programmatic ideas.

Under Weiss’s leadership, the Met balanced its budget by $310 million; divested the Breuer Building on Madison Avenue to the Frick; and moved forward on its retarded modern wing, with the help of a $125 million gift from Oscar Tang, a Met administrator, and his wife, Agnes Hsu-Tang.

“Dan brought maturity and empathy to the museum and really calmed the troubled waters,” said Hamilton E. James, co-chairman of the Met. “He brought us to financial stability and navigated through all these weird curve balls that you wouldn’t normally expect.”

Weiss also guided the museum’s decision to change its 50-year-old admissions policy, requiring out-of-state visitors to pay a mandatory $25 admission fee. Weiss helped steer the museum through the pandemic, difficult race discussions and controversy over Sackler’s donations.

When Met staffers in 2020 urged museum management to recognize a “culture of systemic racism in our institution,” the Met then enacted 13 anti-racism and diversity commitments, hired its first director of diversity and raised funds to underwrite paid internships. .

Weiss said he was especially proud to have helped foster a more outgoing and candid work environment. “We have created a more transparent and accountable institution,” he said.

But his departure inevitably raised the question of whether he was the loser in the power-sharing arrangement. After starting as president and chief operating officer in 2015, Weiss added the CEO title in 2017 in a striking management reorganization, which meant the museum’s next director would report to Weiss, rather than the reverse.

The next director was Hollein, who had long been used to being in charge, having been a museum director since he was 31 years old. His curriculum vitae included 15 years at several Frankfurt institutions and two years as director and general manager of art museums. from San Francisco.

In San Francisco, Hollein managed to take the reins, despite powerful museum board chair Diane B. Wilsey, known as Dede, who had a reputation for being reluctant to relinquish control.

Weiss, too, was used to running the show at Haverford College and, before that, as president of Lafayette College, where he also taught art history, and as dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins.

Moreover, by the time Hollein was hired at the Met, Weiss had had a tantalizing liking to being boss, running the museum after Campbell resigned as manager under pressure in 2017.

But both Weiss and Hollein said that despite their admittedly different management styles and occasional disagreements, they had enjoyed a constructive working relationship.

“I have a real belief in shared governance,” Weiss said. “Max and I are very different people, but we work very well together as partners. This is why the museum is booming.

Hollein said in a statement: “Dan has led the Museum through unprecedented times. He was an extraordinary partner, whose wisdom and judgment set an example for all of us.

Among the major infrastructure projects completed during Weiss’ tenure are the $150 million replacement of the skylights above the European Paintings Galleries, a reimagining of the British Galleries, and the renovation of the Musical Instrument Galleries.

Additionally, the Met recently introduced the reconstruction of the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing (which houses collections of art from sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and the ancient Americas). The museum is also renovating the Ancient Near East and Cypriot galleries.

Weiss continued to keep the writing hand. Next fall, Yale University Press will publish its book Why the Museum Matters, which examines the role of art museums in our culture. In 2019, while chief of the Met, he published a biography of a Vietnam War helicopter pilot and a poet who died in the war (it should be out in paperback soon).

Among the challenges facing the Met are the completion of its new modern wing as well as who will oversee this important branch of the museum: last month, the Met’s senior curator of modern and contemporary art, Sheena Wagstaff, announced that she would leave this summer. .

The dual partnership at the Met also extended to the board in November 2020, when James and Candace K. Beinecke were appointed to replace Daniel Brodsky, the first time the board had two leaders.

When asked if the museum would continue Weiss and Hollein’s shared structure, James said: “We are about to start – thinking about the right leadership structure, should there be a chairman and if so , what is the definition of this role.” He said the board would consult with Weiss and Hollein about their experiences in addition to seeking input from staff and directors.

The museum has experimented with management configurations over the years. Its longtime director, Philippe de Montebello, started in 1977 under the direction of the president, William Macomber, and later became the equal of William H. Luers, who became president of the museum in 1986 after a career in foreign service. American. When Luers retired in 1999, the board added the title of chief executive to de Montebello’s title, and the museum’s next president, David McKinney, reported to him, as did McKinney’s successor, Emily K. Rafferty, in 2005.

Faced with a projected $40 million deficit and low staff morale following Campbell’s departure, the Met viewed Weiss as a soothing parent who would draw on his experience as a capable manager. In addition to leading academic institutions, Weiss held an MBA from the Yale School of Management and, early in his career, spent four years as a management consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton.

Despite his lack of museum experience, Weiss warmed to the role of artistic leader following Campbell’s departure – meeting curators on upcoming shows and becoming the public face of the Met.

When Hollein was hired, Weiss’ role became more clearly defined as the less sexy side of operations. The new director assumed artistic direction and quickly eclipsed Weiss with strong moves toward a more inclusive exhibition program, collection, and staff.

Hollein also leaned into the contemporary art world, drawing on his European connections and lessons learned early in his career at the knees of Thomas Krens, the former director of the Guggenheim who made this institution a new one. York City a global powerhouse by expanding its reach to Bilbao, Spain. , while stirring the pot by putting on shows of Giorgio Armani costumes and Harley Davidson motorcycles. During her career, Hollein curated many influential exhibitions of living artists, such as Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel.

An elegant figure with a Germanic accent, Hollein also became a regular presence in the whirlwind, toasting comfortably with power players at art fairs, biennials and gallery openings.

Weiss, on the other hand, has the aura of a calmer college professor, though by all accounts he was no less ambitious or opinionated.

But Weiss insisted his decision to leave was not related to tensions or a rivalry with Hollein. “We have a lot of respect for each other,” Weiss said. “There is no problem between Max and me.”

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