Thomas Campbell, Former Met Director, to Head de Young and Legion of Honor

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Thomas Campbell, the former Metropolitan Museum of Art director, has been chosen to head San Francisco's Fine Arts Museums, including the de Young and the Legion of Honor. (Courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, parent organization to the de Young and Legion of Honor museums, announced the appointment of Thomas Campbell as director and CEO Tuesday, ending a six-month search for new leadership at two of the region's largest publicly-funded cultural institutions.

Campbell, 56, an Oxford-educated scholar specializing in European tapestries, led the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York between 2009 and 2017. More recently, he was a resident fellow at the Getty Research Institute and Waddesdon Manor, studying international changes to museums. In a leadership swap, his predecessor at the Fine Arts Museums, Max Hollein, earlier this year left San Francisco to head the Met.

Campell leaves the country's largest museum with a mixed record, having overseen a surge in attendance and an expanded digital presence amid managerial and fiscal criticisms. Further, the New York Times reported last year on a complaint that Campbell had an "inappropriate relationship" with a female staffer, which he dismissed as "gossip and innuendo" in comments Tuesday to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The appointment of another white man to a powerful museum post in San Francisco also runs against local calls for greater diversity among art world leadership. In June, more than 100 FAMSF staffers signed a letter urging the board to consider women and people of color for the role.

"I am deeply gratified to take up the responsibility of leading the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco,” Campbell said in a statement. “It is a great privilege to become part of an institution with such outstanding curatorial expertise and famously loyal audiences and supporters, and I am especially pleased to have the opportunity to continue the great work done by my friend and predecessor Max Hollein."


At FAMSF, Campbell will oversee a staff of more than 500 and an operating budget of $57 million in addition to the museums' $133 million endowment.

Campbell, who starts work Nov. 1, will be FAMSF's fourth director since the death of John Buchanan in 2011.