Met Museum Paid Director Campbell $930,000 for First Year

Thomas P. Campbell
Thomas P. Campbell, director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photographer: Don Pollard/Metropolitan Museum of Art via Bloomberg

Thomas P. Campbell, the Oxford-educated curator elevated to director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in January 2009, earned $929,735 in salary and benefits in his first year atop New York’s most visited museum.

The package, disclosed in the Met’s 2009-2010 tax return, is in line with recent pay at the nation’s top museums, which have responded to the recession by trimming executive compensation. Campbell was approved by the Met’s board as its ninth director six days before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for bankruptcy. He took over following a 38 percent annual drop in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock Index and with the Met’s endowment down by more than a quarter.

The Museum of Modern Art, with half the budget of the Met, paid its director, Glenn Lowry, $1.32 million in salary and benefits in the year ending in June 2009. That was down from $1.95 million the year before that.

(Complicating the comparison, MoMA is a private nonprofit organization that received no government operating support in 2009-2010, according to its financial statement. The Met sits on city-owned land and received a $25 million appropriation from New York City.)

James Cuno, president and director of the Art Institute of Chicago, with 60 percent of the Met’s budget, earned $836,000 in pay and benefits in 2008. (Cuno takes over the J. Paul Getty Trust in August. Neither the Art Institute nor MoMA has yet released its 2009-2010 return.)

Attendance Rising

Attendance at the Met, with a collection of more than 2 million artworks, was 5.2 million in 2009-10. It was the first time it exceeded 5 million since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In a press briefing on Monday, Campbell said the museum’s new exhibition of the work of fashion designer Alexander McQueen had nearly 12,000 visitors on Saturday. The wait to get in was 45 minutes.

Campbell earned $640,697 in base pay, $160,103 in expenses and pension benefits plus $129,000 in estimated rent for the Fifth Avenue apartment where he lives with his wife and two children. The museum owns it and requires him to reside there.

A 49-year-old tapestry specialist born in Cambridge, England, he oversaw a hiring freeze as well as hundreds of job cuts to balance the Met’s budget. In the year ending in June 2010, the Met reported a $3.7 million surplus, following a record $8.4 million operating deficit the year before.

Galleries Open

“We didn’t sacrifice programs,” Campbell said in a brief interview this week. “We didn’t close galleries.”

More than a half-dozen Met staffers were in Campbell’s pay stratum in 2009. Some were longtime continuing employees who earned retirement-fund payouts and others took buyouts -- “separation pay” in the tax return -- for early retirement.

Keith Christiansen, who joined the Met in 1977 and was named chairman of European paintings in 2009, had compensation of $1.1 million, including $827,217 from a retirement plan that vested. Employees who were at the museum for 10 years by 1987 were eligible for the plan. Another beneficiary was Linda Sylling, manager for special exhibitions, gallery installations and design, who earned $972,471 in all in 2009.

J. Nicholas Cameron, vice president for construction, and Doralynn Pines, associate director for administration, each received separation pay of nearly $600,000, excluding salary and benefits. Cameron left the museum after 30 years, Pines after 31.

Mahrukh Tarapor, the museum’s associate director for exhibitions and director for international affairs of the Met’s Geneva office, retired after 25 years with pay and benefits of $926,000. That included separation pay of $280,689.

Chief Investment Officer Suzanne Brenner earned $972,555 and her deputy, Lauren Meserve, made $736,701.

Philippe de Montebello, Campbell’s predecessor for 31 years, received $535,154 in 2009, the return said. Harold Holzer, a museum spokesman, said it consisted of money from retirement investments. De Montebello’s listed compensation peaked at $5.5 million in the year ending in June 2006, most of it retirement pay and money to retain him through the age of 70.

Met President Emily Rafferty earned $791,500 in pay and benefits, up 2 percent from a year earlier.

Separately, the Met yesterday announced that developer Daniel Brodsky will succeed James Houghton as museum chairman, effective Sept. 13.

-- Editors: Manuela Hoelterhoff, Jeremy Gerard.

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