The head of the Met Museum will step down.
Daniel H. Weiss was a stabilizing force, but his departure makes people wonder if the museum’s two-pronged management structure still works and will continue.
In 2015, he was hired to fix up the troubled Metropolitan Museum of Art. He took over as director after the previous director was fired and then shared power with another director. But on Tuesday, Daniel H. Weiss told the board of the museum that he would leave his position as president and CEO in June 2023.
Weiss, 65, said in an interview, “The institution is in a strong and good place. I’m proud of the work we’ve done.” “I think it’s best to always know the right time. I’m ready to move on to something else.”
Weiss, who used to be president of Haverford College and is an art historian, said he didn’t know what his next step would be, but he’s looking forward to writing and maybe teaching again. Now, the board will decide whether to replace Weiss or get rid of the museum’s unusual two-pronged leadership structure, which was put in place in 2017.
The model seemed to work well for the Met. As president, Weiss was in charge of business and administration, while its directors, Thomas P. Campbell, who quit under pressure in 2017, and Max Hollein, who was hired in 2018, were in charge of curating and coming up with ideas for programming.
Under Weiss’s leadership, the Met’s $310 million budget was balanced, the Breuer building on Madison Avenue was given to the Frick, and the Modern Wing project was moved forward thanks to a $125 million donation from Met trustee Oscar Tang and his wife, Agnes Hsu-Tang.
The Met’s co-chairman, Hamilton E. James, said that Dan brought maturity and compassion to the museum and really helped to calm things down. “He got us to a place where we were financially stable and helped us get through all these weird things that you wouldn’t normally expect.”
Weiss also helped the museum decide to change its admissions policy after 50 years, making it mandatory for visitors from out of state to pay a $25 fee to get in. Weiss has helped the museum get through the pandemic, hard conversations about race, and the scandal over the Sackler donations.
When Met employees asked the museum’s leaders in 2020 to recognize a “culture of systemic racism at our institution,” the Met responded by making 13 Commitments on Anti-Racism and Diversity, hiring its first chief diversity officer, and raising money to pay for paid internships at the museum.
Weiss said that he was especially proud of helping to create a more open and honest workplace. “We’ve made the institution more open and answerable,” he said.
But when he left, it was hard not to wonder if he was the one who lost out in the power-sharing deal. In 2015, Weiss became president and chief operating officer. In 2017, he also became chief executive. This was a big change in the way the museum’s leadership was set up, and it meant that the next director would report to Weiss instead of the other way around.
Hollein was the next director. He had been a museum director since he was 31 years old, so he was used to being in charge. He worked at several places in Frankfurt for 15 years and ran the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for two years as director and CEO.
Hollein was able to take control of the museums in San Francisco, even though the powerful board president, Diane B. Wilsey, also known as “Dede,” was known for not wanting to give up power.
Weiss was also used to being in charge. Before Haverford College, he was president of Lafayette College and taught art history there. Before that, he was dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins.
Also, by the time Hollein was hired at the Met, Weiss had already had a taste of being in charge. He ran the museum after Campbell resigned as director in 2017 because of pressure.
But both Weiss and Hollein said that, even though they had different ways of managing and sometimes disagreed, they had had a good time working together.
Weiss said, “I really believe in shared governance.” “Max and I are very different, but as partners we work well together. Because of this, the museum has been doing very well.”
“Dan has led the Museum through times that have never been seen before,” Hollein said in a statement. He has been a great partner whose wisdom and good judgment have taught us all a lot.
During Weiss’s time as director, a $150 million project to replace the skylights over the European Paintings Galleries, a rethinking of the British Galleries, and a renovation of the Musical Instruments Galleries were all finished.
Also, the Michael C. Rockefeller Wing at the Met has just started to be rebuilt (which houses collections of art from sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and the ancient Americas). The museum is also fixing up the galleries for the Ancient Near East and Cyprus.
Weiss has kept writing over and over again. His book “Why the Museum Matters,” which looks at the role of art museums in our culture, will come out in the fall from Yale University Press. In 2019, he wrote a biography of a Vietnam War poet and helicopter pilot who died in the war. He did this while he was the Met chief (it is soon due out in paperback).
The Met has to figure out how to build its new Modern wing and who will be in charge of that important part of the museum: Sheena Wagstaff, who is in charge of modern and contemporary art at the Met, said last month that she would be leaving this summer.
When James and Candace K. Beinecke were appointed to replace Daniel Brodsky on the board of directors in November 2020, it was the first time the board had two leaders.
When asked if the museum would keep Weiss and Hollein’s shared structure, James said, “We’re about to start on that. We’re going to think about the right leadership structure, if there should be a president, and what that role would be.” He also said that the board would talk to Weiss and Hollein about their experiences and also ask staff and trustees for their thoughts.
Over the years, the museum has tried out different ways to run. Philippe de Montebello, who has been in charge of the museum for a long time, started out reporting to William Macomber, who was president at the time. Later, he became equal with William H. Luers, who became president of the museum in 1986 after working in the U.S. Foreign Service. When Luers retired in 1999, the board gave de Montebello the title of chief executive. David McKinney, the next president of the museum, and Emily K. Rafferty, who took over from McKinney in 2005, reported to him.
With a planned $40 million deficit and low staff morale, After Campbell left, the Met saw Weiss as a kind of calming parent who could use his experience as a good manager. Weiss has led academic institutions and also has an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management. Early in his career, he worked at Booz Allen Hamilton for four years as a management consultant.
Even though he had never worked in a museum before, Weiss took on the role of arts leader after Campbell left. He met with curators to talk about upcoming shows and became the public face of the Met.
When Hollein was hired, it became clearer that Weiss was in charge of the less exciting operations side. The new director took over artistic leadership and quickly overtook Weiss by making strong moves toward an exhibition program, collection, and staff that were more open to everyone.
Hollein has also gotten involved in the world of contemporary art. He has done this by using his connections in Europe and the lessons he learned early in his career from Thomas Krens, the former director of the Guggenheim. Krens made the Guggenheim a global powerhouse by expanding its reach to Bilbao, Spain, and by putting on shows with Giorgio Armani suits and Harley Davidson motorcycles. Hollein has put together important shows of living artists like Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel over the course of his career.
Hollein is an elegant person who speaks with a German accent. He has also become a regular in the swirl, clinking glasses with important people at art fairs, biennales, and gallery openings.
Weiss, on the other hand, seems more like a quiet college professor, but everyone says he is just as ambitious and has strong opinions.
But Weiss said that his decision to leave had nothing to do with any tensions or competition with Hollein. Weiss said, “We have a lot of respect for each other.” “There’s nothing at all between Max and me.”