Thomas Campbell Named Next Director of Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Thomas P. Campbell, come on down, you’re the next director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art! The Met’s board of trustees elected Campbell, 46, an accomplished curator with a specialty in European tapestry who has worked at the museum since 1995, as the museum’s ninth director at their meeting today. He will succeed retiring (and New York University bound) director Philippe de Montebello on January 1, 2009. Campbell currently serves as curator in the museum’s department of European sculpture and decorative arts as well as supervising curator of the museum’s Antonio Ratti Textile Center. Click “continued…” for Campbell’s full biography from the Met.


Thomas P. Campbell, 46, was born and raised in Cambridge, England. He received his B.A. in English language and literature from the University of Oxford in 1984, followed by a Diploma from Christie’s Fine and Decorative Arts course, London, in 1985. While studying for his Master’s degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art (1987), he discovered the extent to which mainstream art history had overlooked the major role that the tapestry medium played in European art and propaganda. During the following years, he worked to rectify this by creating the Franses Tapestry Archive in London (1987-94), which, with more than 120,000 images, is the largest and most up-to-date information resource on European tapestries and figurative textiles in the world. His early research culminated in several ground-breaking research articles and a Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute (1999) on the art and culture of King Henry VIII’s court.

Since 1995, he has worked in the Metropolitan Museum’s Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, rising steadily through the curatorial ranks as Assistant Curator (1995-97), Associate Curator (1997-2003), and Curator (2003 to the present). During this time, he conceived and organized the major exhibitions Tapestry in the Renaissance: Art and Magnificence (2002) and Tapestry in the Baroque: Threads of Splendor (New York, 2007; Palacio Real, Madrid, spring 2008), both of which incorporated drawings, paintings, and prints, as well as tapestries, and received widespread acclaim. The 2002 exhibition was named “Exhibition of the Year” by Apollo magazine and its catalogue won the Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award (College Art Association) for distinguished exhibition catalogue in the history of art (2003). He was also responsible for enhancing the holdings of the Museum’s European textiles (including the acquisition of extremely rare tapestries and woven silks); and selecting and overseeing the rotation of textiles in the galleries of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.

Since shortly after his arrival at the Museum, he has also been Supervising Curator of The Antonio Ratti Textile Center, which houses the Museum’s encyclopedic collection of 36,000 textiles and is one of the preeminent centers of textile studies in the world. As such, he has been responsible for all administrative aspects of the center, including supervision and implementation of the new center; close collaboration with the 10 curatorial departments whose holdings include textiles; an advisory role in the development of the online collections management system, which now includes approximately 42,000 images and is the largest textile database available to the public in the world; the conception and development of an image database devoted to Western European tapestry, funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and other sources; and hosting and mentoring international textile scholars within the Museum’s fellowship program.

He has lectured and taught extensively on European court patronage and the relation of tapestries to the other arts, both to scholars and the general public, at institutions and museums in the United States and abroad. He has also published extensively on the subject of historic European textiles and their relationship to other art forms of their periods. His most recent book publication is Henry VIII and the Art of Majesty: Tapestries at the Tudor Court (Yale University Press, 2007), and his articles have appeared in leading scholarly journals such as Burlington Magazine, Apollo, Studies in the Decorative Arts, and Gazette des Beaux-Arts. He has been the recipient of awards and fellowships, including the Iris Foundation Award (Bard Graduate Center) for a scholar in mid-career deserving of recognition for outstanding contributions to the study of the decorative arts (2003). And he has also been actively involved in a wide range of advisory committees relating to the mission and administration of the Museum.

Mr. Campbell lives in Westchester County, New York, with his wife and their two children.