Thomas P. Campbell, a British expert on tapestries who has been director and chief executive officer of the Met since the beginning of 2009, said he would step down at the end of June.
The Met, one of the world’s largest museums with collections spanning the globe from antiquity onward, opened a modern art annex, the Met Breuer, last year and says overall attendance has shot up to seven million a year, 40 per cent more than when Campbell took charge.
But the museum last year said it was cutting costs, including curbing hiring, as its operating deficit has been projected to reach US$23 million for 2016.
"At a moment when art and culture have an especially profound role to play in fostering mutual understanding, I am especially proud that our visitor base is the largest and most diverse in the museum’s history," Campbell said in a statement.
"At the same time, we are on track to be financially stable and have a solid strategic path forward," added Campbell, who started at the Met as a curator 22 years ago.
The New York Times in early February quoted anonymous Met insiders who criticised Campbell, saying he was doing too much too soon and essentially competing with New York’s esteemed modern art institutions rather than focusing on the Met’s core mission.
The newspaper said that the Met had been obliged to put off by several years a plan for a new US$600 million modern art wing in the museum’s main building off Central Park to address more pressing needs.
Daniel Brodsky, chairman of the Met’s board of directors, said the museum leadership was "incredibly proud" of Campbell’s accomplishments.
He said that Met president Daniel Weiss, an expert in art from the Crusader era who formerly headed Haverford College near Philadelphia, will serve as interim director.
Art institutions around the US -- which enjoy less state support than counterparts in Europe -- have struggled to improve their finances as donors remain wary despite the recovery from the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
US museums and performing arts venues are bracing for more trouble ahead as President Donald Trump looks set to target cultural funding. — AFP