The Philippe de Montebello era is etched in stone at the Metropolitan Museum of Art — literally. At a lush good-bye party for its departing director last night, the Met unveiled a plaque on the wall of the Great Hall. It listed all of the directors of the museum since its founding, and ended, somewhat dourly, with “Philippe de Montebello 1978–2008.” Philippe said he was completely surprised at the tribute and joked that "I take no offense … that I'm sharing it with other directors."
It was the first of a bunch of "farewells" the museum will hold for De Montebello over the next several weeks. Last night the occasion was the opening of "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," a show that De Montebello insisted that the curators had come up with all by themselves. Huge buffet tables of shrimp, cheeses, and canapés looked very 2007. Incoming director Thomas P. Campbell, who takes over next year, was introduced to the crowd’s applause but didn’t speak. De Montebello noted interestingly, "We do not see eye to eye on everything." At the conclusion of an emotional speech, De Montebello gave the crowd a thumbs-up and noted “It will be hard walking out the door.”