When Philippe de Montebello announced his retirement earlier this year, the curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art quickly came up with the perfect going-away gift for their long-serving director.
An exhibit, of course.
It was a mammoth task: In more than 30 years as director, de Montebello has overseen the acquisition of more than 84,000 objects, from sculptures to scrolls to paintings to pendants.
Around 300 of those artworks have been pulled together for "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," which opens Friday and runs through Feb. 1. De Montebello, 72, is retiring at the end of the year after being at the Met's helm since 1977.
De Montebello said the show came as "a wonderful surprise."
"When one's professional staff pays tribute to you, that gives you a sense that you've done something right," he said in an interview.
The curators had hoped to keep the exhibit a surprise for de Montebello, said Helen Evans, the curator who coordinated the show. . . .
Instead, the show moves roughly chronologically through de Montebello's years at the museum, with the result that works of art are juxtaposed with each other in ways they aren't normally. Paintings, sculptures, photographs, weapons, clothing, furniture - it's all there, sometimes making for some unusual neighbors, such as an Egyptian statue next to a sculpture from the people of Easter Island.
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