in Interviews | 30 SEP 13
Featured in
Issue 2

Questionnaire: Thomas Campbell

The Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, discusses his favourite art works and how he would like to have dinner with Rubens

in Interviews | 30 SEP 13

Can you pinpoint one work of art that inspired you to become an art historian?

A poster of ‘The Lady and the Unicorn’ tapestries that hung on the back of the door of my best friend’s kitchen when I was growing up in Cambridge.

Which was the first art gallery you ever visited?

I hitchhiked to Paris with that same friend at age 16 on a pilgrimage to the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de Cluny.

Which art historians have inspired your own writing?

Edith Standen was one of the so-called monuments men in World War II (a group of heroic men and women from 13 countries who worked to save the culture treasures of Europe during the war). She joined the Met as a textile curator in 1949 and went on to become one of the great scholars in the field.

Is there one work of art in the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection that you return to time and again?

The Harvesters (1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder for its timeless and vivid portrait of humanity. 

What, if anything, do you feel is missing from the collection of the Met?

We should have more American Indian and Latin American art.

What is the most mysterious work of art in the Met?

Fragment of a Queen’s Face, Egyptian (c.1353–36 bce).

What is your favourite title of a work of art?

And How Many Rains Must Fall Before the Stains Are Washed Clean by Imran Qureshi (which is the current Roof Garden commission at the Met).

Is there an art form you don’t relate to?

Reality TV.

Are you interested in contemporary art?

Yes, particularly in the context of the Met’s historic collections; that combination creates a unique experience.

Which artist who has a work of art in the Met would you especially like to meet, and why?

Peter Paul Rubens, over a long, indulgent meal, because he embraced life in every aspect.