MFAH Lands Star Director from Met

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Gary Tinterow is packing his bags for the Bayou City to head the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Tue December 6, 2011 10:59 pm
F. Carter Smith | MFAH

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Gary Tinterow is packing his bags for the Bayou City to head the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Tinterow, currently chairman of the department of nineteenth-century, modern, and contemporary art at the Met, replaces the beloved Peter C. Marzio, who ran MFAH for 28 years until his death last year. 

“I’ve landed the best job in the world,” Tinterow gushed to the New York Times . “It’s a matchless combination: a committed board, a passionate audience, a fine collection and an institution with the third-largest endowment in the country.”

The Houston Chronicle 's editorial board accepted Tinterow with open arms in a Saturday editorial, writing, "We’re delighted that the museum’s new director, Gary Tinterow, 58, seems ready to pick up where Marzio left off. ‘Houston,’ Tinterow notes with Marzio-like enthusiasm, ‘has infinite opportunity.’”

This is a homecoming for Tinterow, who was raised in Houston. “I’m elated to come to Houston, which is my hometown, a city that I think I know, but of course has just transformed itself in the last 40 years since I've been away living in the East. But it has only improved, gotten more beautiful, bigger, more people, more sophisticated, more cosmopolitan even than it was when I was studying here as a young man," Tinterow told  KUHF's Laurie Johnson.

The Chronicle‘s editorial board believes that Tinterow's deep Texas roots—his father was an orchestra leader in the Shamrock Hilton's Emerald Room, he attended Bellaire High School, and Governor Ann Richards was his cousin—and New York polish will help him “beguile” donors into opening their checkbooks.

Tinterow told CultureMap Houston he has been scoping out homes east of the museum on Houston Association of Realtors  website. His partner, New York antique dealer Christopher Gardner, and their two dogs will be making the move as well. “I haven’t told the dogs yet,” he told  CultureMap.

The selection of a New Yorker for the new MFAH director comes on the heels of the arrival of two other New Yorkers—Art League Houston’s Glenn Weiss and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston’s Dean Daderko—and Houston Press’ s Steve Jansen wonders what that says about Houston. “Dare we say Houston — and not New York City — is the place to be for visual art?" Jansen asks at the alt-weekly's Art Attack blog.

Tinterow takes the reins of the MFAH as the museum plans to expand to accommodate its twentieth- and twenty-first-century collections on a two-acre site next to the Glassell School of Art. The  Chronicle’s editorial board believes that Tinterow, who led the Met through two gallery renovations and helped the museum secure a Marcel Breuer building, is ideally positioned to navigate the MFAH seamlessly through this expansion. 

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