It’s been a year of firsts across the world. Some good, some not so good. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is adding two firsts to the tally this week. They have nominated not one, but two people to co-chair the Board. And one of those two people will be a woman, for the first time in the Board’s history. 

Trying Times for the Met

Hamilton “Tony” E James

With people staying home more and avoiding crowded public places, museums like the Met have felt the sting of the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York Times reports that the Met is projecting a $150 million revenue loss through June. In order to slow the financial bleed, the Met has reduced offered programs, made staff cuts, reduced executive pay, and appealed to the Board of Trustees who rose approximately $25 million as an emergency cushion.

Brodsky Out, James and Beinecke In

The Mets new historic co-leaders are taking charge of the Board in trying times. Hamilton “Tony” E James is the executive vice chairman of investment firm Blackstone. Candace K. Beinecke is a senior partner at law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed.

The pair takes the reins from Daniel Brodsky in January. Brodsky’s three-year term was supposed to expire in September, but was extended to maintain stability as the pandemic continued to rage. Beinecke and James will inherit the Met’s pandemic woes and uncertain future. Both chairpeople have been trustees since 2010, and Beinecke was instrumental in nominating the Met’s current director, Max Hollein, to his position. 

Challenging Times

Candace K. Beinecke

Beinecke and James certainly have their work cut out for them. But the Board is determined and full of dedicated trustees. In order to become a Board member in the first place, interested parties have to crack open their checkbooks to the tune of up to $10 million according a 2010 report. This is common, and other art institutes in New York have similar price tags to join the Board; some requiring as little as several hundred thousand in, “donations,” others boldly requiring $5- or $10 million. 

With such trying times, Beinecke and James will have to work hard to hold the Met steady. Although people are slowly trickling back into public institutions, fears that a winter surge of COVID numbers could drive people back into their homes permeates the museum and art world. 

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