Metropolitan Museum of Art director Thomas Campbell today plucked Sheena Wagstaff from Tate Modern, where she serves as chief curator, to head the museum’s modern and contemporary art department.
The appointment comes as the Met is gearing up to occupy by the Whitney’s current home on the Upper East Side in 2015, which it has said it will use to exhibit art from the 20th and 21st centuries for at least eight years.
And Mr. Campbell says that he will not cease his hiring with the appointment of Ms. Wagstaff, telling Carol Vogel of The New York Times, who was first out of the gate with the news: “If we build up the right team, we will have the potential to grow our collections thoroughly and embrace European and non-Western art.” Sounds ambitious.
Ms. Vogel notes that some critics–like Pulitzer Prize winner Holland Cotter, for instance–have questioned whether the encyclopedic Met should devote its energies to contemporary art, given that it is a rather crowded field. “But,” she writes, “the Met doesn’t intend to be like everyone else.”
Mr. Campbell appears to be throwing his weight behind recent art, breaking out modern and contemporary art from the 19th century art department–a break with the previous director, Philippe “I am the Met” de Montebello, who had combined them into one curatorial outfit–and securing the use of the Whitney’s Marcel Breuer-designed building.
Ms. Vogel notices that this is the fourth London-based curator that Mr. Campbell–a Briton!–has hired during his reign, which began in 2009, and asked him “why he chose Ms. Wagstaff over the scores of talented American curators to choose from.” She was told: “Sheena is knowledgeable and well respected in the community. There was chemistry.”
In any sense, Ms. Wagstaff has hearty New York roots for those who are concerned about such things: she attended the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, just like Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong and New Museum director Lisa Phillips.