Long-Serving Met Director Set to Retire

Philippe de Montebello transformed New York's most popular attraction
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2008 12:00 PM CST

(Newser) – Philippe de Montebello, the longest-serving director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will retire by year's end, Bloomberg reports. Since he took over in 1977, the museum has nearly doubled its exhibition space, including popular Greek and Roman antiquities galleries that opened in April; at 4.6 million visitors a year, it's become New York's most-visited attraction.

The Met audio guides have made the director's patrician, French-accented voice well-known—a "plummy baritone" that "made millions of bookish women swoon," Michael Kimmelman writes in appreciation in the New York Times. De Montebello's tenure wasn't without controversy; an erudite and reserved man, he was often accused of dismissing contemporary art, as well as belittling Greek and Italian claims on artifacts looted from historic sites, which were eventually settled.