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New York's Met Museum Director Resigns Amid Financial Troubles


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City seemed to be starting this year strong. Tripadvisor called it the number one art museum in the world. Attendance has reached record highs. That happened under the direction of Thomas Campbell. But suddenly, he's stepping down. Here's Charlie Herman of our member station WNYC.

CHARLIE HERMAN, BYLINE: His resignation comes as a shock. Campbell came to the museum 22 years ago as a curator in the tapestry department and became director and CEO in 2009. Since then, he's been expanding the museum's offerings. But it's come at a price.

ROBIN POGREBIN: Over the last year, it found itself in financial difficulty.

HERMAN: Robin Pogrebin is a culture reporter for The New York Times who's been digging into the museum's finances. It turns out the Met's been spending more than it's been bringing in. This year, it's looking at a $15 million deficit.

POGREBIN: There has been sort of a growing sense of concern and discontent within the museum about Mr. Campbell's leadership. And I think that it came to a head.

HERMAN: During Campbell's tenure, the museum spent $16 million renovating another building so it can exhibit modern and contemporary art. Managing that new location costs an additional $21 million each year. And at the same time, revenue hasn't been growing as fast. A year ago, it settled a lawsuit over how much visitors should pay for admission, changing the word recommended to suggested. Now, about 1 in 5 visitors pay full price - $25.

Andrew Taylor is an associate professor of art management at American University. He says leaders of world-class museums like the Met have to take bold actions to get people's attention. They also need to pay for those plans.

ANDREW TAYLOR: The things that get them in trouble are walking the tight rope a little too far to one side or the other. They are on a delicate balance about doing bold programming but also being conservative in spending.

HERMAN: The director of the Met is perhaps the most prestigious art leadership position in America. It comes with a million dollar-plus salary and an apartment across the street from the museum. It's unclear who will replace Campbell. But nearly all the museum's leaders have come from the ranks of the curators. For NPR News, I'm Charlie Herman in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Charlie Herman