Every day, Phillipe De Montebello makes financial decisions that affect the most well-known museum in America. And he does so without having ever gone to business school. "I have no formal training in administration, business administration or otherwise," the director of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art told a group of about 75 students Tuesday in Steinberg-Dietrich Hall. De Montebello, who came to Penn as part of the Musser-Shoemaker Leadership Lecture series, discussed his ascent from an Art History major at Harvard to director of the nation's most prestigious museum. De Montebello attended Harvard as an undergraduate and then continued his study of art history at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. Today, De Montebello directs a museum with a budget of $125 million that houses around 2 million works of art and brings in about 5.5 million visitors a year. "We are not a market-driven institution. We are a mission-driven institution," De Montebello said. What enabled De Montebello to succeed without formal training, he said, was his passion, common sense and good judgment. "I know what I want. I make decisions not hastily, but quickly," De Montebello said. "I think that's one of my strengths." Although De Montebello said he is "not a team builder," he still likes to consult regularly with the key members of his staff in order to get a good sense of what they are thinking. De Montebello was also willing to recognize his museum as "elitist." "I embrace joyfully that we are an elitist institution. Elitism is having a sense of excellence and betterment," he said. But, for De Montebello, the path to becoming the director of the Met had many stops along the way. While pursuing his doctoral degree at NYU, De Montebello was approached by the Met and offered a management job. In 1969, a museum in Houston asked De Montebello to be its acting director, a job for which he felt he was unsuited. "I have never figured out why they went after me," De Montebello said of the job offer from the Houston museum. Then, in 1974, De Montebello was called back to become the chief curator at the Met. Four years later, he was named director of the museum. "The happiest moment of my life was booking a one-way ticket out of Houston," he said, calling himself a "city boy." After around 20 minutes of De Montebello speaking, he opened the room to a question-and-answer session. During the session, De Montebello fielded questions about topics ranging from a recent profile of him in The New York Times to a recent controversy about avant-garde art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Several of the students who attended the lecture said they were intrigued by De Montebello's honesty in discussing his approach to leadership and his conviction that his museum is "elitist." "I think it is potentially interesting to hear about the relationship between the business and the art world," College sophomore Elizabeth Goodman said.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.