Rebecca Rabinow Leaves Metropolitan Museum of Art for Menil Collection

She's been in New York for 26 years.

Rebecca Rabinow. Photo courtesy the Menil Collection.
Rebecca Rabinow. Photo courtesy the Menil Collection.

Houston’s Menil Collection has named Rebecca Rabinow, previously a lifer at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, as its new director. She takes the place of Josef Helfenstein, who left to become the head of the Kunstmuseum Basel, and will take up her new post in July.

Rabinow has served at the Metropolitan since 1990, and is currently the curator in charge of the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art. She organized the 2014-15 exhibition that marked the blockbuster collection of modern art that the cosmetics executive gave the museum that year, and oversaw the exhibitions “Matisse, In Search of True Painting” (2012-13) and “The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde” (2012).

Among her other accomplishments were the lauded reinstallation of the museum’s galleries for European painting and sculpture from the 19th and early 20th centuries, which took place in 2007.

Rabinow was raised in Houston before attending Smith College, the Sorbonne, and the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, where she earned a PhD.

“I spent the summer of 1988 volunteering in the recently opened Menil Collection, where my job was to preserve Dominique and John de Menil’s correspondence by placing it in Mylar sleeves,” Rabinow said in a press release. “However cut-and-dried that might sound, their letters radiated such a sense of history, mission, and creativity that I was hooked on the first day. It is abundantly clear to me that the Menil set me on my career path.”

The Menil Collection. Photo Lian Chang, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Menil Collection. Photo Lian Chang, via Wikimedia Commons.

Opened in 1987, the museum was the first in the US designed by Renzo Piano, and centers on the collection of oil equipment heiress Dominique de Menil and her husband, John. The institution’s 17,000-piece collection spans modern and contemporary art, African, Pacific Northwest, and Pacific Islands art and Mediterranean antiquities, among other areas.


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