15 Nov 2012 5:00pm - 6:30pm Mill Lane Lecture Room 9


Humanitas Visiting Professor in the History of Art 2012-13

The Humanitas Chair in the History of Art has been made possible by the generous support of J E Safra.

Professor Philippe de Montebello


Philippe de Montebello (Director Emeritus, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fiske Kimball Professor, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University) will give a series of three public lectures on The Multiple Lives of the Work of Art  and participate in a concluding symposium. 

The first lecture, The Many Faces of Context, focuses on how choices of media and changes in contexts imply concomitant shifts in meaning and viewer response.

The lecture is free to attend and no registration is required. Information about the concluding symposium and online registration can be found here.


The lectures, constructed around a number of case studies, look at works of art from a curatorial point of view; that is, one focusing primarily on their properties as objects. They will examine how the changing contexts of works of art and their transformations over time and space affect the viewer’s response(s) to them.


A premise of these lectures is that no work appears to us today as it was originally conceived. It may undergo many transformations in the course of its life, from deliberate alterations to natural degradation, and at the same time, any response at historical distance is necessarily variable and contingent.

Further events in this series


About Philippe de Montebello

Mr. de Montebello was born in Paris and received his early education in France. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University and received a master’s degree in art history from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.  With the exception of four and a half years as director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, he has spent his entire career at the Metropolitan, first as curator in the Department of European Paintings and later as the Museum’s Chief Curator.






In 2008, Philippe de Montebello retired after 31 years as the longest-serving director in the Metropolitan Museum’s 140-year-long history.  Under his leadership the Metropolitan Museum nearly doubled in size, vastly increasing its exhibition space.  The Metropolitan also acquired significant collections and individual masterpieces, mounted acclaimed international loan exhibitions, developed wide-reaching educational programs, and reinstalled much of its permanent collections in new and refurbished galleries. In 2008 the curators of the Metropolitan Museum paid homage to Mr de Montebello’s tenure by mounting an unprecedented tribute exhibition of some 300 works of art that entered the collections under his leadership, The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions



Following his retirement, Mr de Montebello became the first scholar in residence at the Prado Museum in Madrid, and he launched a new academic career as the first Fiske Kimball Professor in the History and Culture of Museums at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University; he is also a special advisor for NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus. Mr. de Montebello is the television co-host with Paula Zahn of the WNET/PBS weekly culture series NYCArts. He also serves as Special Advisor to the Leon Levy Foundation.


Mr. de Montebello was elected in 2008 to the Board of Trustees of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and in 2012 he was elected Honorary Trustee of the Prado Museum in Madrid.

About the Professorships

Humanitas is a series of Visiting Professorships at Oxford and Cambridge intended to bring leading practitioners and scholars to both universities to address major themes in the arts, social sciences and humanities. Created by Lord Weidenfeld, the Programme is managed and funded by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue with the support of a series of generous benefactors, and co-ordinated in Cambridge by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). Humanitas Visiting Professors are held by distinguished academics and leading practitioners who have contributed to interdisciplinary research and innovation in a broad range of contemporary disciplines in the arts, social sciences and humanities. Covering areas of urgent or enduring interest in today's society as well as the performing arts, Humanitas Visiting Professors will present their pioneering work through a series of lectures or performances open to University audiences and the wider public.

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Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk