Former Metropolitan Museum Director Philippe de Montebello to Lead Hispanic Society of America

Can de Montebello help make the Hispanic Society a household name?

Philippe de Montebello (Photo by Jonathan Grassi/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Philippe de Montebello, the former longtime director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, has a new gig: chairman of the Hispanic Society of America. He replaces George B. Moore, who is retiring after over a decade leading the institution.

“I am on a mission to lift the profile of this museum,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “I’ve always felt so frustrated that an institution that has not one, or two, but three paintings by Velázquez should not be known” (see New Scholarship Points to Secret Symbolism in Velázquez Paintings).

The over 100-year-old Washington Heights museum and library is hoping de Montebello’s years of experience will help him achieve that goal, and drive more foot traffic to the historic Beaux-Arts building between West 155th and 156th Streets.

The Hispanic Society boasts an impressive collection of Spanish and Latin American artworks and manuscripts, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, ceramics, and over 250,000 books, including 15,000 predating the year 1701.

The under-known museum recently lent six El Greco paintings to the Met for “El Greco in New York,” which united all the works by the Greek artist in New York city collections in celebration of the 400th anniversary of his birth (see El Greco, Rubens, and Why We Should Stop Re-Inventing Old Masters).

Under de Montebello’s leadership, the museum hopes to expand into an adjoining building that once housed the Museum of the American Indian and is currently being renovated. The Hispanic Society was founded in 1904 by Archer Milton Huntington, Spanish art collector and stepson of railroad baron Collis P. Huntington.

Since retiring from the Met in 2008 after 31 years at the helm, de Montebello has been teaching museum history and culture at New York University. He has served on the Hispanic Society’s board of overseers for about four years and this past fall his most recent book, Rendez-vous with Art, a document of conversations he had with British art critic Martin Gayford as they visit museums across seven cities in the US and Europe, was released by Thames & Hudson (see That Time Philippe de Montebello Was in a Florence Flood).

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