Based as we are in New York, the staff of The Magazine ANTIQUES has a fond if not proprietary tendency to look upon the Metropolitan Museum of Art, especially its American Wing, as our “local” museum. So when we heard the news that the redoubtable Morrison H. Heckscher was retiring after forty-eight years, thirteen of them as head of the American Wing, we were especially curious about who could possibly fill his shoes.
Like so many others, we are delighted to see that Sylvia L. Yount has gamely stepped right into them. Yount, who comes to the Met after seven years as the chief curator at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (where her work was “transformative” says VMFA director Alex Nyerges), is particularly admired for her collegial approach. Andrew Walker, director of the Amon Carter Museum, who went to graduate school in art history with her, notes Yount’s “collaborative skills, respect for the past, and the ability to find the right path of innovation”—talents that she has already displayed at the Met in rearranging, with colleagues Amelia Peck and Beth Carver Wees, the Colonial Portraiture Gallery to highlight Peck’s research into Prince Demah Barnes.
“Sylvia has a wide-ranging perspective and a deep understanding of American art,” adds fellow New York curator Theresa Carbone of the Brooklyn Museum—a definite asset as the Met starts to move some collections into Marcel Breuer’s former Whitney Museum building down the street, and the American and modern and contemporary departments work together to reinvigorate interest in the entire continuum of American art. Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser and Randall Griffey’s recent installation of Thomas Hart Benton’s America Today murals from the modern department in the American Wing provides a hint at just how stimulating these collaborations will be. Yount has the further ability to “look across departments and cultures to make fruitful connections” says Terra Foundation director Elizabeth Glassman, which will surely bring stimulating new perspectives to the understanding of American art within the wider world.
So as we bid adieu to Morrie with thanks for all his contributions to American decorative and fine arts, we say welcome to Sylvia. You are blessed with an exceptional suite of galleries, a talented group of curators, and a devoted group of patrons and trustees. We look forward to all that you will do.